For ten intensive years, the Apache Longbow (“Seraph”) attack helicopters were proven vital for the IAF. Now it’s time to look back – and into the next decade
Eilon Tohar | Translation: Eden Sharon
From the 2006 Second Lebanon War to Operation “Protective Edge” last summer, from multitasking to focusing on the challenge of cooperation – for the last decade, The AH-64D Apache Longbow (“Seraph”) attack helicopter plays a key role in IAF operations.
Lt. Col. Matan, commander of the “Hornet” squadron, looks back on the development of the platform and guarantees that it is in excellent shape for the next decade to come.
“The Apache Longbow has brought many capabilities to the attack helicopters squadrons”, says Lt. Col. Matan. “One of our advantages is the ability to always adapt to new situations and use its own unique capacities”.
Cooperating with Ground Forces
The last ten years were filled with operational activity that kept the Apache Longbow helicopters quite busy. In the first year of its service in the IAF, the platform has already taken part in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
“We are the first to show up in any scene”, adds Lt. Col. Matan. “For the 50 days of Operation ‘Protective Edge’ we flew the estimated amount of six months of flying during routine”.
Lt. Col. Matan explains that during the last decade the missions of the attack helicopter have become clearer and today, after completing its construction process, the squadron focuses on its main designation: CAS (Close Air Support) to ground forces.
“The cooperation begins with joint planning of exercises and continues to the debriefing we perform together in the field”, says Lt. Col. Matan. “Many times we are the only ones who can help the ground forces. Today we deal mostly with border protection and assisting infantry forces. Our comparative advantages are clear and we are trying to leverage our capabilities to assist them in the best possible way”.
A New Generation Helicopter
The uniqueness of the “Seraph” lies in its systems which makes it the most advanced attack helicopter in the Israeli Air Force.
“The Apache Longbow belongs to a new generation”, explains Lt. Col. Matan. “It has screens by which you can control the helicopter and choose the relevant data you want to see”.
One of the main avionic systems that makes the Apache Longbow stand out is its advanced AN/APG-78 Longbow millimeter-wave FCR (Fire-Control Radar) target acquisition system and the RFI (Radar Frequency Interferometer) housed in a dome located above the main rotor. Using its communication systems, the “Seraph” can contact other helicopters and divide relevant missions after scanning the field and locating targets. The FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared system) helps identify targets from extremely long ranges, reducing risk for air crew members.
The “Seraph” carries the “Hellfire” missiles which are activated simultaneously by laser and radar. “The Apache Longbow’s weapon systems and capabilities make it capable of dealing with a wide range of missions. As a result of that, we can always choose what to focus on in light of the current constraints”, says Lt. Col. Matan. “This is what makes this helicopter unique and keeps it constantly relevant. This is what makes infantry forces say: ‘We need you. We want you with us’”.