April 23, 2009, Tel Aviv -- The Israel Air Force (IAF) is negotiating with St. Louis-based Boeing to buy up to six more AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters, which the service plans to arm with locally made Spike missiles and U.S. Hellfires.
Defense and industry sources here said the recently launched talks are focused on upgrading four older IAF AH-64As to the advanced Longbow configuration. But an IAF general officer said the service is also seeking additional funding for a six-aircraft deal similar to previous procurement packages.
"There could be six more over the five-year plan, and these aircraft will be a lot more capable than the Sharafs we now have," said the officer, using the Hebrew name for Viper conferred on IAF Longbows.
Since 2005, Israel has acquired three lots of six Apache Longbows, including new builds and remanufactured versions of older-model Apaches. Three of the advanced, all-weather attack helicopters were lost in the 2006 Lebanon War, two in a midair collision and another due to a rotor-related failure.
In addition to fortifying the existing Longbow fleet, defense and industry sources said the remanufactured aircraft are expected to accommodate the Spike ER (extended range) anti-armor missile. In interviews here, sources said representatives from the IAF, Boeing and Rafael, developers of the Spike ER, have begun discussions about integrating the Israeli missile into the Apache Longbow's millimeter-wave fire control and acquisition system.
With a range of up to eight kilometers, the electro-optical, autonomously guided, precision missile is designed for urban strikes and ground support during the day, at night and in bad weather. The Spike ER features multipurpose warheads and is designed to operate in fire-and-forget or fire-and-steer modes for cases where moving targets or terrorists on the run attempt to avoid attack and targets must be switched after launch.
Rafael has integrated the Spike ER on the Eurocopter Tiger and AgustaWestland A129 helicopters, but the pending deal will provide the firm's first opportunity to integrate its ground strike missile on a front-line U.S. platform, sources here said.
Boeing spokesman Paul Lewis declined to discuss details of the pending deal.
"We understand [the IAF] could be interested in additional helicopters, and we welcome the customer's interest," he said.
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