What is an Apache Helicopter?

Mary McMahon

An Apache helicopter is a military helicopter designed for use by the United States Army. In addition to being used by the American military, this design is also utilized by several other militaries, including those of Greece, Israel, and the Netherlands. The Apache design is revolutionary in the world of military helicopters, as the helicopter essentially acts as an airborne tank, with heavy weapons systems which are capable of targeting heavily-armored ground targets. The Apache helicopter is also one tough bird: it's extremely difficult to bring down an Apache.

Apache helicopters are used by the U.S. Army.
Apache helicopters are used by the U.S. Army.

The design for the Apache was developed by Hughes Helicopters in the 1980s. The AH-64 Apache, as it is formally known, is manufactured by Boeing Aircraft. The helicopter's name reflects a longstanding military tradition of referencing Native American culture in the names for military helicopter, and “Apache” is an apt name for this aircraft, as this Native American tribe is famed for its militant nature and skilled performance in war.

Military helicopters have multiple types of counter measures for defense against missiles.
Military helicopters have multiple types of counter measures for defense against missiles.

This helicopter is designed for offensive attack, and it can provide air support to the Army on the ground, or actively seek out and eliminate targets, depending on the mission. Each Apache helicopter has two cockpits, with a complete set of controls for both a pilot and a gunner in each cockpit. Under normal conditions, the gunner sits in the forward cockpit and the pilot sits in the back, but either officer can take over in the event that one is disabled.

Apaches have a twin engine design which keeps the helicopter flying in the event of engine trouble, and the aircraft are also heavily armored to resist gunfire from the ground or from other aircraft. The primary weapons system is a nose-mounted chain gun, but the Apache helicopter can also be outfitted with missiles for specific missions.

In addition to carrying an array of offensive equipment, the Apache helicopter also has some useful defensive equipment, including very sophisticated sensor systems on the Apache Longbow, the latest iteration of the design as of 2009. The helicopter can also be utilized in electronic warfare, and it works in an array of conditions, including bad weather and nighttime flying.

Like other military aircraft, the Apache helicopter is constantly being refined to address specific issues which arise in the field. Periodically, upgrades to existing helicopters are released, and the design is occasionally overhauled to produce an entirely new model. Customers can also request specific modifications from Boeing, for an extra fee, of course.

First developed by Hughes Helicopters in the 1980s, the Boeing Aircraft-made Apache is a heavy-duty military helicopter used by forces in the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands and other nations.
First developed by Hughes Helicopters in the 1980s, the Boeing Aircraft-made Apache is a heavy-duty military helicopter used by forces in the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands and other nations.

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Discussion Comments


Why are the helicopters called the Apache war helicopters?


@jmc88 - Don't forget the Blackhawk helicopter of "Blackhawk Down" fame. I'm not sure if they are still in use anymore, though.

@TreeMan - I'm not a military buff or anything, so I could be wrong, but I would say most of the changes to the Apache Longbow helicopter were to adapt it to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. From what I understand, a lot of their defenses against helicopters are rocket propelled grenades and other types of explosive launchers, so the Longbow probably has increased armor to protect against those things. Maybe someone else can add on if they know more about it.

I have actually seen an Apache helicopter landing. I don't know the exact length, but it was very big. Probably about 40 feet long. I've never been next to another military copter, so I'm not sure how it compares.


The article briefly mentions the Longbow Apache helicopter. How is this different than the old version besides having a better electronics system? How big are these helicopters, anyway? That's always something I've wondered about.

Also, what kind of conflicts has the Apache been involved with? Since it was first created in the 80s, the Middle East wars would have been the only times it was used regularly, right?


@jmc88 - The only other Native American named helicopter I have heard of besides the Apache and Comanche is the Iroquois. I'm not sure if the Apache is the most common helicopter used or not. I know that the Cobra is another one of the popular attack helicopters. I don't know about whether other variations exist. Given its design, I'd say it is unlikely.

The article mentions that the Apache is an Army helicopter. Is it only used by the Army, or do the Marines, Navy, and Air Force use them, too? If not, does anyone know what the most common helicopters those branches use are?


Obviously, there is the Apache helicopter named after a Native American tribe. I have also heard of the Comanche attack helicopter. Are there any others that are used? Is the Apache the best attack helicopter that is used by the United States? I know it is the one that I hear about the most.

Are there any versions of the Apache that are used for transport or medical uses? I know that the Huey helicopters have been modified into several different uses.


@starrynight - That does sound like a great feature. The thing that amazes me the most is that Boeing makes these!

I always associate Boeing with passenger aircraft like the 747. I had no idea they made military aircraft as well. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised though, a lot of companies have different divisions that make completely different products!


I think the best feature of the Apache is the fact that either person in the plane can control it. During a military mission, there's a good chance that one of the people in the helicopter could be disabled.

Instead of having to waste time moving someone (and possibly injure them further) the other person can just take over! Whoever thought up that feature was an excellent designer.

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