The Army grounded its Apache attack helicopters as a precaution after a June 11 incident in which the tail rotor assembly on an Apache flown by an Israeli army pilot fell off in flight, officials said Thursday.
The Army said the tail rotor blades of all 742 of its Apaches will be inspected before they fly again. The first unit to be inspected will be a Utah National Guard Apache unit due to deploy to Kosovo soon.
Officials said they could not immediately say how long it would take to get the entire Apache fleet back in operation. CNN, which was first to report the grounding, quoted an unidentified Army official as saying it could take as long as three months.
The Army said the 500 Apaches with tail rotor blades that have more than 1,000 flight-hours will not be allowed to fly again until the blades are replaced or inspection procedures are implemented.
The other 242 helicopters will be allowed to fly after an inspection but must be reinspected after every 125 hours of flight.
The grounding, ordered on June 15, was the third for the Apache fleet in the last two years.
Apaches are considered the Army's best attack helicopters and were used extensively in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq.