The Army decided to replace "AH-64D Block III" with "AH-64E" after the Defense Acquisition Board, a high-level Pentagon committee, approved full rate production in August. The Army, which plans to buy 690 AH-64Es, decided the new designation is warranted because the soon-to-be "Echo" model of the Apache has so much more capability than the AH-64D Block I's and Block II's it's replacing, the first of which came into service in 1997.
The AH-64E, the first of which was rolled out last year, has a better drive train and a composite rotor that makes it fly both better and 25 knots faster than the Block II. It boasts improved open architecture avionics that will ease the way for future improvements. It also has the optional ability to control the sensors and flight of an unmanned aircraft.
It's still too early to say what the Taliban might dub the AH-64E or whether insurgents will find it scarier than the AH-64D Block II, whose crew can target and kill enemies from miles away, day or night, using a 30mm chain gun that can fire 640 rounds a minute, Hellfire missiles of both the laser- and radar-guided varieties, and unguided Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets. A radio intercept during a firefight in Afghanistan last year revealed that the Taliban know even the AH-64D Block II as "The Monster."