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AH-64 Apache

The AH-64 Apache is the USís key attack helicopter.

First flown in 1975, the two-crew aircraft is heavily armoured to withstand close-range firing and can be used in day or night combat.

It is designed to quickly enter an enemy area and hit targets at close range before escaping to safety at a maximum speed of 225 mph (362 kph).

The Apache carries a range of armaments to hit different targets. It can carry up to 16 Hellfire missiles that can lock on to targets such as tanks from up to 5 miles (8km) away.

In closer combat, the crew turn to rockets and 1,200 rounds of ammunition in a 30mm automatic cannon.

Pilots use standard video pictures, enhanced video images and thermal imagery to identify targets - though the US military recognises that there are limitations to the thermal identification system.

The new version of the Apache, known as the Longbow, comes with a fourth system - a fire control radar system (the large bobble above the rotor blades).

This is designed to improve the crews ability to identify targets and overcome firing limitations caused by adverse weather conditions or other factors.

It also carries computers that share battlefield information with other attack aircraft and commanders at base.

The Apache played a major role in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 during which it destroyed more than 500 Iraqi army tanks along with hundreds of trucks and other vehicles.

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