Deployed Apaches Army's Top Repair Priority
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 1999 Apache helicopters deployed in Kosovo, Bosnia, Southwest Asia and Korea will receive top priority repairs as the Army moves to replace parts implicated in a crash in January.
So far, Army officials have determined about 400 of 743 AH- 64 Apache attack helicopters need the new parts, Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley said here Nov. 9. "The hanger bearing assemblies fore and aft house the drive train, which passes turbine engine power to the tail rotor," he explained. "A failure in the flange area will result in loss of tail rotor thrust and such a failure could be catastrophic."
It will take eight to 10 months and about $13.5 million to replace the assemblies, Crowley said. Crew safety is the Army's first priority, he stressed. Substantial numbers of the helicopters will not fly for the next three months as the manufacturer accelerates the production of replacements, he said.
The Army will ensure Apaches engaged in major contingencies and first-to-fight units are repaired first. "We don't expect any major impact on the key operations that the Army is currently involved in," Crowley said. Operations and training at stateside units, however, will be affected until the assemblies are replaced, he added.
U.S. officials have notified other nations that have purchased Apaches of the problem, Crowley said.
The Army announced Nov. 5 that all its 660 AH-64A and 83 AH-64D models must be inspected before their next flight. Army investigators had identified the bearing assembly problem while looking into a January accident at Fort Rucker, Ala., that destroyed an Apache and injured the two- man crew.
In a Nov. 5 news release, Army officials said stress corrosion fractures resulting from a hardness heat-treat process used during manufacture may cause the bearing assemblies to fail. Hanger bearing assemblies produced after the Army changed the manufacturing process in 1993 do not have the potential for such fractures, the officials said.
There's no indication the assembly problem caused the Apache crashes earlier this year in Albania that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers, Crowley said.
The Apache attack helicopter, first acquired by the Army in 1986, is capable of performing its mission at night and under adverse weather conditions. Armed with rockets, laser-guided missiles and a 30 mm cannon, the Apache can deliver highly mobile and effective firepower as an integral element of ground units, according to Army officials.
Army Apaches played key roles in destroying Iraqi forward air defenses during Operation Desert Storm. Apaches deployed to Albania during NATO Operation Allied Force, but were not used in combat. Apaches currently deployed in Kosovo provide allied forces with reconnaissance and security.