Aircraft spotters were shocked and delighted yesterday when a rare Apache attack helicopter swooped over Salford’s City Airport at Barton.
Bosses at the airport were coy about the arrival of the four-blade, twin-turboshaft craft, joking on Facebook they ‘could neither confirm nor deny’ that it was to use the base off the A57 Liverpool Road for a training exercise.
The ZJ199, which uses the callsign AAC311, arrived in the area at around 5.10pm on Thursday 16 June for ‘hover training’.
It comes just days after the famous Chinook made another landing at the civilian airport in Salford.
The Apache helicopter is run by the British Army Air Corps any carries the Ministry of Defence designation AH1.
The machines themselves were modelled on the original Apache AH-64D Longbow, first built for the American army in 1975.
The British version switched to Rolls-Royce engines, which produced 25% more power than General Electric T700s, and used a folding rotor blade system which allowed the craft to land on ships at sea – something unique to the Apache.
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Some 67 were engineered between 1999 and 2004 and remain in service.
With a maxiumum speed of 227mph it is much-vaunted for its manoeuverability, but its weapon and defence options mark it apart from any other military craft.
The Apache is built to withstand hits from 12.7mm rounds and even 23mm high-explosive incendiary ammunition. A fire control radar allows the crew to track, find and engage targets in the air or on the ground in all weathers, at daytime or nighttime.
It is fitted with a nose-mounted 30mm chain gun capable of firing 625 rounds a minute, and on live missions carries over 1,000 rounds onboard.
It can be fitted with up to 32 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, which can destroy targets up to four miles away.
There’s also space for up to 38 CRV-7 rockets and four air-to-air missiles on each side of the fuselage.
The 58ft-long vehicles have been used extensively for combat air support, anti-armour and ground/air escorts missions in Afghanistan, and helped in the NATO military intervention in Libya in 2011.
All images by Phil McKessey Mitchell