AH-64 of Israel Defense Force
By far the most active of the non-American Apache users has been Israel, although there has been little released about its activities by the notoriously close-mouthed Israeli Defense Force. The first AH-64As (given the local name Peten or “Cobra”) reached Israel in September 1990. Re-formed on September 12, 1990, Israel’s No. 113 Squadron became the country’s first operational Apache unit. In August/September 1993, Israel received a further 24 AH-64As (plus two UH-60A Black Hawks) from surplus US Army Europe stocks, as a “thank you” for support during Operation Desert Storm. All were delivered by C-5 from Ramstein Air Force Base. The arrival of these aircraft led to the establishment of the IDF/AF’s second AH-64 squadron.
In early 2000 the IDF announced its intention to convert 12 of its AH-64As to AH-64D Apache Longbow standard. The deal would have cost the Israeli Air Force $400 million, with an option for 12 more helicopters to undergo the conversion as well. Upon entering office in April 2000, however, the new LAF Commander, Dan Halutz, ordered a re-evaluation of the conversion program, opting for the purchase of brand new AH-64Ds instead. The value of the program, which includes aircraft, ordnance, spares, training, and support is valued at $500 million. Plans to upgrade older A model Apaches have not been completely abandoned and several IDF Apaches may be upgraded by Boeing yet.
During November 1991, Israel became the first foreign AH-64 operator to use its aircraft in combat, when Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon were hit in reprisal for guerrilla attacks against Israeli troops occupying the region. Sporadic operations continued over the next few years, including an attack on February 16, 1992, against the convoy carrying Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Abbas Musawi. In 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath, a major anti-guerrilla offensive into southern Lebanon, was launched. Apaches led off the assault, with a precision strike against a Hezbollah headquarters in southern Beirut, and were heavily used throughout the fighting.
Early in 2000 the simmering conflict, flared up again ahead of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Again Apaches were in the thick of the action, attacking Hezbollah forces that had been firing over the border into Israel, and flying missions in support of the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army. On May 24 the last Israeli troops left Lebanese soil.
The Pelen fleet has subsequently seen continued employment on retaliatory strikes across the border and into the West Bank and Gaza. Initially, targets such as Palestinian Authority police stations were singled out. Because of their urban locations, such missions required pinpoint attacks to minimize collateral damage and civilian fatalities. The AH-64, with its precision capability and AGM-114K Hellfire missiles, is better suited for such missions than conventional ground attack aircraft. However, in spite of its accuracy, more recent attacks against the homes of the organizations behind Palestinian suicide bombers have caused significant civilian casualties.