It’s been over 40 years since the AH-64 Apache made its first flight. This helicopter emerged as the best among entrants to the 1972 Advanced Attack Helicopter program, beating out a design from Bell to become the Army’s most advanced helicopter. From there, this legendary aircraft went on to see action across the globe in the hands of the world’s most advanced militaries.
Originally designed as a Cold War tank killer, the Apache has since become a very lethal hunter of terrorists. These helicopters are outfitted with the M230 30mm chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
An AH-64D Apache Longbow flies over Baghdad in 2007.
From the skies above, the Apache has watched as the Army shifted from Patton to Abrams and Bradley to Stryker. It’s had a service career that the AH-56 Cheyenne, a cancelled helicopter that created a vacuum in capabilities filled by the Apache, could only dream of.
It seems fitting that this chopper was the first to fire shots in Desert Storm — after all, it’s had a long history of making terrorist asses grass. It even took a turn as a cinematic star in the movie Firebirds, which featured Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones.
Over 2,000 Apaches have been purchased in the decades since its military debut in 1986. The Apache has seen action in the Balkans and during the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The AH-64E Apache Guardian is slated to be in production through 2026, 51 years after the Apache’s first flight.
The Apache has survived at least one attempt to replace it (in the form of the RAH-66 Comanche). Recently, it’s taken over scout helicopter duties from the new-retired OH-58 Kiowa — and learned how to control UAVs in the process. The new AH-64E Apache Guardian is now in service and has export orders with Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Qatar.
Learn more about this helicopter that’s survived for nearly four decades in the video below.