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Mesa Boeing plant delivers world’s premier attack helicopter

MESA – The rotating blades of an Apache helicopter are a sound of power for U.S. and allied troops around the world. The protection from above is thanks to work being done right here in Mesa.

The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter is called the quarterback of the battlefield for its network-centric capabilities and its high speed, range and weapon systems, according to the manufacturer Boeing. That’s why it’s in high demand.

“We’re in all regions of the world, the number of countries are going to continue to grow, and the countries that have it come back and ask for the upgraded models,” said Mark Ballew, Boeing’s director of Global Sales and Marketing for Attack Helicopter Programs in Mesa.

South Korea is the most recent country to add Apache attack helicopters to its arsenal. Its first Apache was delivered in November and the rest are undergoing final flight testing before being deployed.

Ballew said Boeing is in negotiations with other countries also looking to purchase Apaches and that continuous demand ensures stability for the Mesa plant for years to come. The U.S. government has the final say on which countries can purchase the helicopter.

“You have to deliver on time, you have to deliver on cost, you have to have the quality, and our workforce understands that,” Ballew said. “And we make the investment in the facilities, the tooling and the people to make sure that we can continue to do this for the decades to come.”

The first AH-64 rolled off the production line in Mesa in 1983, and the plant has solid production through 2026, but Ballew said the U.S. Army could be using Apaches through 2070. Right now, it takes 48 days for an Apache to go through the production line, and nearly 2,200 have been made. Parts for these helicopters come from about 400 international suppliers.

The Arizona Army National Guard operates Apache helicopters based at Silverbell Army Heliport, part of Pinal Airpark near Marana. The facility is used as a training base for U.S. and allied helicopter crews.

Last month, the National Guard held its inaugural Gunfighter Fly-In competition at Silverbell AHP, using AH-64’s to simulate real-world flying and gunnery scenarios. It was an opportunity for Apache crews from several states to train and collaborate.

“The Apache helicopter is an amazing machine. Not only is it stealthy, but it’s deadly,” Apache Maintainer and Crew Chief Staff Sgt. Lauren Rhodes said. “It’s pretty awesome that I get the opportunity to work on it and be part of it.”

Aviation Officer Capt. Andrew Jewkes said the Apaches are renowned for supporting ground troops.

“Anytime in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent conflicts we’ve had, any time ground troops have been in contact with the enemy, Apaches have been there and they’ve been able to support them and protect them,” he said. “The enemy has known that when Apaches are in the area, those ground troops are safe.”

“Even though, they’re working here in Mesa, Arizona, they’re making a difference in Afghanistan, they’re making a difference in Saudi Arabia, they’re making a difference in Asia Pacific,” Ballew said. “They take that seriously because what we do is important and lives depend on the quality of work that’s done here in Mesa, Arizona.”

The Mesa plant also builds the AH-6 light attack helicopter and will begin production on a new vertical lift aircraft next year.

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A Boeing AH-64 Apache Helicopter in flight.