US sequestration buys time for UK Apache’s

Due to the ongoing sequestration and budget battle in Washington the US Army has been forced to delay its Apache new build and rebuild programs to AH 64 E standards. This means the current type as used by the British Army is likely to be supported for longer giving the MOD some vital breathing space to decide what to do about its Apaches.

Currently UK thinking seems to be slanted towards going for a rebuild on the current fleet but reported costs for the US program would put a rebuild on the entire UK Apaches fleet some where north of $600 million which is probably not something the MOD can consider for the next few years at the very least.

However as the rebuild will see the fuselage and main rotor replaced, if it was to go ahead would it be worth the UK looking at a marinised version? The aircraft is said to have performed very well from Ocean but it has some severe maintenance issues when being used in a salt water environment. Could a rebuild offer us the chance to solve some of these issues and produce a truly purple asset.

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Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 3:26 pm

The UK would be clinically insane not to rebuild it’s Apaches to the Block III standard. It will make an already highly effective platform even more so and sustain it for another decade or two. I also fail to see why this issue is so urgent, the US rebuild programme will go on for years and there are plenty of export customers in the same boat that will also need their aircraft maintained- and Boeing will make that happen. AH-64E deliveries are currently scheduled to run through to FY27- Ds will have to be supported until then.

This issue seems to have been inflated considerably.

A much wider issue is how to properly integrate UK expeditionary assets across all three services. If the UK had a credible procurement entity that would be possible- but it does not.

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 3:52 pm

I suspect that there are two factors at play.

Firstly, Afghanistan eats helicopters, the Apache fleet has probably burnt through its airframe, engines and systems life far faster than expected. The desire for an early rebuild may be being driven by the fleet looking tired.

Secondly, the RAF most have noticed that Apaches (especially the way they were used in Libya) overlap with F-35/Typhoon T3/Reaper/Scavenger equipped with SPEAR in terms of capability and therefore see a juicy pot of money they can turn into an extra FJ squadron or two. Locking in an Apache upgrade programme now would help keep the fleet safe, especially if it can be squeezed into SDSR15.

But again, even the US Army will be sustaining Block II birds until 2027.

Integration is about far more than just marinisation- there is the systems element as well- making sure Apaches and FJs both appear as assets on everybody’s screens.

as
as
November 10, 2013 3:53 pm

The US fleet will not finish being upgrading the A to D spec till December with there first E delivered last November.
It took them 16 years to upgrade there fleet to the same standard.
The Greek, Israeli and Singapore fleets are not currently listed for upgrade to D spec.
Most of the other users have no plan to upgrade beyond there current D spec aircraft.
Lot of scare stories
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2243208/Britains-66-Apache-gunships-redundant-America-opts-updated-model.html
As part of AgustaWestland licence agreement they are allowed to make all spare parts so there is no real problem

Mark
Mark
November 10, 2013 4:13 pm

The reason for the urgency is airworthiness requirements I would have thought considering what was the original us plans.

“The Army Air Corps (AAC) declared initial operating capability with its originally 67-strong Apache fleet in October 2004, but a modernisation is required due to the US Army’s planned withdrawal of support by 2017 for the Block I AH-64D model on which it is based. The US service has an operational fleet of more than 600 Apaches, but is transitioning to using the Block III/E-model version of the rotorcraft.”

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/uk-weighing-options-for-apache-attack-helicopter-upgrade-379558/

Given the significant reduction is fastjet numbers maintaining apache numbers at current levels should be a priority I would have hoped.

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 4:22 pm

In short, the UK’s problem is that the UK declared operational capability on Block I Apache’s just as the US Army was introducing Block II aircraft. Pure genius as always.

So there are two options at hand- low upfront cost in the form of Block II technology insertion to take the aircraft into the late 2020s. Or high up-front cost to take them to the 2040s with superior capability achieved in the near term. Given the reduction to four squadrons there will be less aircraft to upgrade anyway.

So after the carriers have eaten their fill of the contingency fund do you fancy Apache’s or an MPA?

as
as
November 10, 2013 4:31 pm

as
as
November 10, 2013 4:32 pm

as
as
November 10, 2013 4:39 pm

Topman
Topman
November 10, 2013 4:44 pm

How many other countries are in the same boat as us?

Fedaykin
November 10, 2013 4:53 pm

Even the US delaying a Block-III/AH-64E upgrade doesn’t change the fact that a decision is going to have to be made very soon about UK Apache. Remember the Apache fielded by the UK are not Block-II but rather a hybrid Block-I variant. Even if the support of Block-II is extended that doesn’t help UK Apache in their unique Block-I configuration, the Army has already been facing issues where components in particular various LRU are no-longer supported hence the cannibalising of airframes back in the UK to support Afghan ops. UK Apache have different engines, folding blades (as fitted to the AH64A) and HIDAS.

So to go to Block-III involves some serious decisions, do we got to another hybrid solution or vanilla AH-64E? Block-III has a different uprated gearbox to allow for more powerful CT7, now that would be good news for the RTM322 as the UK Apache could better use the power available but that would also mean a UK specific integration of power plant and gearbox. Would it be cheaper to adopt the uprated CT7 and gearbox combination? Or do we go for an extreme hybrid where we overhaul the airframes and motive components cherry picking out the bits we like in Block-III and trying to get them to work with the Block-I systems?

as
as
November 10, 2013 4:55 pm

Egypt 35 D spec
Greece 29 A spec
Indonesia 8 E spec on order
Israel 45 a mixture of A & D
Japan 10 D spec
South korea 36 E spec on order
Kuwait 16 D spec
Netherlands 29 D spec
Saudi Arabia 12 A spec
Singapore 19 D spec
Taiwan 30 E spec on order
United Arab Emirates 30 D spec
USA 669 from december all D spec
UK 67 D spec

Think Defence
Admin
November 10, 2013 4:57 pm

Had a chat with an AAC QHI a while ago, he told me he always thought getting on to the USMC AH1Z was the better option because of two key factors, operable at sea and a dramatically lower logistics overhead/cost, i.e. much more suited to the kind of operations we would get into and meaning we could afford to sustain a fleet without crippling everything else, which is exactly what is happening.

He was also a big fan of the UH1Y for exactly the same reasons

So the Block III upgrade will either a) suck the budget out of Army rotary and b) result in a small number of golden bullet airframes we can’t afford to use

In all reality, it will be both

The UK would be better served, I think, by dropping AH altogether and investing in up arming Wildcat

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 5:03 pm

TD,

With the reduced number of squadrons we already have the smaller number of airframes. What else does Army rotary need? Everything else is funded and the RAF has chinooks galore.

The 1Z is hardly a masterpiece either. And it would have missed most of Afghanistan having not been declared operationally ready until late 2010.

WAH-64 Apache is awesome, probably the most awesome attack helicopter out there. Something the UK got right (it took it’s sweet time about it though) and the money should definitely be found to keep it that way.

as
as
November 10, 2013 5:12 pm

As part of AgustaWestland licence agreement they are allowed to make all spare parts so there should be no real problem. That would means shortages is down to the army not ordering them.

Most of the upgrades are in relation to engine and gearbox so are not relevant any way.
We can not use the rotor blade upgrade because we use a different rotor head.
Most of what we need is in relation to the avionics and electronics.

Think Defence
Admin
November 10, 2013 5:14 pm
Reply to  Bob

Bob, I think we all understand how awesome the Apache is but I know that UK Block III is going to suck the life out of a limited pot of cash that has many other capability areas looking at it. The aviation budget is not ring fenced so if it makes sense to buy FRES UV instead of Block III Apache (a simplistic example) then that might be fair enough

I honestly think the British Army has bigger issues than AH Block III

The USMC Zulu and Yankee might not be at the cutting edge, they might have had a few problems getting into service but they are specifically designed for operating with lightweight logistics support i.e. cheap, unlike the Apache and Black hawk which have typically lavish requirements. so the cost of ownership is traded off against the final 5% of capability

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 5:26 pm

TD,

I don’t where your notion of AH-1Z being cheap to operate comes from, it really is not. It is still a large twin engined (same powerplant as an Apache) helicopter with a complex array of systems. There is nothing especially cheap about operating a 1Z. The Marine’s only went with the 1Y/1Z because they wanted to protect the V22. Operating costs had nothing to do with it.

WAH-64 is one of the British Army’s best assets- combined with Scout, Watch-keeper and GMLRS it provides an outstanding precision fires and targeting capability. It is the last thing the Army should consider cheap-skating on.- especially if you “strategic raiding” or whatever it’s called now.

mike
mike
November 10, 2013 5:30 pm

“I honestly think the British Army has bigger issues than AH Block III”

^ This.

The big problem is, we know how useful and important an asset Apache is, its a rock and a hard place situation… dare I say; would it have been better if the AAC just went for an all AH force?

With JHF there to ensure meaningful airlift for the army, I could see the reason for just focusing the limited funds on the real weight of the AAC, the AH, rather than a smaller number of logistic/small lift assets that would often be fulfilled by Puma/Chinook/Merlin anyway.

Of course, not as simple as that, a small/medium lift/logistics helicopter organic to the army is damn useful and important… but is it important enough to give Army Wildcat a reason for existence?

Rocket Banana
November 10, 2013 5:33 pm

TD,

“The UK would be better served, I think, by dropping AH altogether and investing in up arming Wildcat”

I agree that in the long term this really should be the way to go.

At the moment however Apache constitutes our only naval strike aircraft :-(

Ted
Ted
November 10, 2013 5:33 pm

Or if you want a really costly approach go for an augusta westland rebuild with all the AH64E kit fully marinised and with the best power plant available.

I don’t think it is a capability we can afford to lose.

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 5:38 pm

I can’t really think of anything more stupid than replacing Apache with an up-armed Wildcat. Replacing a heavily armed and armoured ISR hub with a lightly armed and armoured utility helicopter (adding some composite armour panels and some weapons pylons won’t get you anywhere near an Apache) is very silly indeed.

A sensible move, if Wildcat is to be used for scout work, would be fitting it with a better sensor pod.

Rocket Banana
November 10, 2013 5:43 pm

Bob,

I don’t think anyone here said to replace Apache with Wildcat – they’re not equivalent. Simply that AH is expensive and unnecessary and (hopefully) much of its capability can be provided with Wildcat (as you say, in the scout role) and Brimstone from Typhoon or F35.

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 5:48 pm

Simon,

Anyone who thinks that is living in a fantasy land.

Rocket Banana
November 10, 2013 5:52 pm

Bob,

It’s no fantasy that Apache is very, expensive and with a diminishing Army and a lack of commitment to engaging anyone soon, it is also pretty unnecessary.

Jed
Jed
November 10, 2013 6:17 pm

UK Apache is unique, we could not just go with the US version but “gold plated” it to meet our apparently equally “Unique” operational requirements. Now we are paying for that decision.

If we go with rebuild to E standard, it should be EXACTLY the same aircraft as the US Army, perhaps we could live with the UK DAS, but core systems and avionics must not be unique or we hit the same issues again.

So as the US Army probably is not interested in designing “marinerisation” into the E rebuild, if we want it, were will have to pay for it, and once again we end up with a bubbly unique version of the Apache !

If fitting Navy Wildcats with dual mode Brimstone and LMM and maybe laser guided 70mm rockets is not good enough, then perhaps the short term deployment of rebuilt E model Apaches would just have to use the same contingent additional maintenance procedures as used now, and that would have to be purple enough.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 10, 2013 6:28 pm

Somebody may correct me but even in GW1 or 2 have we ever had to utilise the full capabilities of something Apache? Fantastic bit of kit that it is, have we ever needed it to be as good or survivable?
We are not optimising to face a large armour threat in a conventional type battlefield so would an AH1-Z not be more than good enough, especially given its maritime capability.

as
as
November 10, 2013 6:30 pm

Israel has choose not to upgrade any of its fleet
No As to Ds and no Ds to Es

as
as
November 10, 2013 6:39 pm

http://www.dutchdefencepress.com/?p=10651
The Dutch are upgrading to batch 2

x
x
November 10, 2013 6:43 pm

$600 million will become £600 million without a doubt. That is about 2 brigade’s worth of Warthog. Remind me again what are 1 Div riding about in at the moment?

Personally I think Apache is worth it, but only if the Army wasn’t completely cocking up FRES Scout. Apache is more important than ASCOD SV FRES WC BBC IBA ITT NCB NBC CNN and bar as the latter brings nothing to the mix.

20 Wildcat for amphibious AH work? Yes but where will base them? Reading between the lines when we discuss CVF’s future with APATS it appears CVF will stay well OTH. Small helicopter going feet dry in to a combat zone to get shot at and then having to toddle a hundred miles back to a moving airfield? Um. No. Sorry can’t see it.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 10, 2013 6:50 pm

Down-grading from WAH-64D to any other type of helicopter is completely pointless. I expect they’d end up being more expensive than refreshing the existing Apache fleet, by the time you’ve put all of the bells and whistles on.

It may pain the other services to realise, but the WAH-64D is probably the most combat-proven aircraft in current UK service, with many times more combat missions in the last decade. I think partly that’s because the missions tend to be shorter, and I was once told that the maintenance hours per flight were considerably less than the other CAS-types of aircraft (Harrier GR was still in service then).

Anyway, what about buying a few more squadrons and having them marinised and operating from the flat tops? Flown by the Navy. A relatively small reduction in F35B overall numbers could pay for say 4 additional squadrons*** of WAH-64E (Marinised), and I think the overall capability of a QEC carrying a mix of F35B and Apache would be greater than merely incrementally a few more F35B.

*** Ballpark 1:4 cost ratio on various estimates. So drop a F35B squadron, get 4 Sea Apache squadrons.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 10, 2013 6:51 pm

APATS,

Considering that we didn’t have Apache in either 1991 or 2003, that’s a bit of a pointless question.
In Afghanistan the additional power of the WAH Mk1 over the stock AH64D allowed it to operate hot-and-high with a radar, which consequently permitted it better situational awareness (as radar can see friendly helicopters at night as well as it can detect enemy AFVs) Apparently the UK-Spec DAS was quite useful as well.

ChrisM
ChrisM
November 10, 2013 6:52 pm

“have we ever had to utilise the full capabilities of something Apache”

Surely we have been in Afghanistan? Would we really orbit bad guys in a poorly armoured Wildcat? Would we send Wildcats in to clear a warm LZ for the medical Chinooks ?
Could Wildcat replace the ability to stand off and hit the enemy with long range 30mm?
If in the future we are not going to send our own troops in to COIN situations surely Apache is exactly the capability we need? We can sit offshore and offer regional troops superb close support at acceptable risk.

McZ
McZ
November 10, 2013 7:02 pm

AH-64s are expensive to operate (last number I read was £46,000 per hour), but there is not much reasoning behind this. Wonder, if the MOD could enlighten the debate with some facts about the main cost-drivers?! I mean, c’mon, every smallish company uses proper cost analysis.

They are twin-engined as almost any military helicopter in service. They even share the same engine with some types. I guess, it must have something to do with very low flight profiles (bird-strikes and cables), the gearbox, the Longbow-radar and the electronics kit. Or are they including weaponry fired in action?

All I know for sure is, that a German source talked about €80-90,000 per Typhoon flight hour, with only half the German fleet airworthy. Not a single Typhoon was ever sent to Afghanistan. Even the RAF has problems to get spare parts, don’t know if they still cannibalize airframes.

mike
mike
November 10, 2013 7:13 pm

Cannibalizing airframes happens on every aircraft type in every service every day.
To what degree, depends on type. But cannibalizing an airframe is not particularly a bad thing, but relies on the logistics of spares. Its when it becomes too common and the only way to get an airframe/type airborne (and how often a certain part is used between servicing), then its an important issue to worry about.

The cost per hour may also include personnel cost, the cost of having people dedicated for hours to service it, pre and post flight.
All the reasons you gave also add to it as well, and I agree that when its put like that “£46,000 per hour” it instantly jumps out at you… perhaps that is why we see ‘man hours per flight’ more often?

Also, why do our Apaches carry the Longbow Radar unit? The US does not. Just seems odd to me, putting a radar that’s seldom used (other than terrain mapping?) to risk of wear and tear.

Rocket Banana
November 10, 2013 7:18 pm

I’d love to see some stats for Apache since GW1. The ones for GW1 are abysmal. 274 Apache with 652 flights (!!!) scored 1173 kills (buildings and vehicles) such was their servicability rate.

I know the later generation are more reliable but we simply don’t get into this level of combat.

Does a 30mm gun out-range a MANPADS? No.

I just can’t get my head round Apache in UK service… love ’em to bits, but not for us.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 10, 2013 7:18 pm

That why I asked the question and it was poorly phrased. What i meant was even in GW1/2 would we have fully utilised AH64 capabilities.
What would we lose switching to AH1-Z?

chrism
chrism
November 10, 2013 7:28 pm

How armoured is an AH1-Z?
If we are to use them in future it is likely that the risk of losing one will have to be low or they wont be used and the money is wasted.
I think the Apache has a lot of PR and political value. They look really scary, have a fearsome reputation, and are the top of the game. Sending them anywhere makes a real statement of intent or support.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 10, 2013 7:28 pm

Another thing to consider is that flight hour cost may include depreciation costs, which can make old platforms seem cheaper to run than newer ones.

x
x
November 10, 2013 7:33 pm

.

Mark
Mark
November 10, 2013 7:42 pm

Fast jet and ah support are complimentary we’ve seen that in Afghanistan. I do however see having apache as rather important especially as it allows a significant airborne attack capability to be deployed to numerous conflicts were fast jets or heavy artillery are not required to be deployed or limits the number of fastjets we need to deploy and likewise heavy artillery. If that means stopped f35 buy at 48 or less or removing watchkeeper air vehicle or reducing army wildcat numbers then so be it.

Ah-1z could have been gd enough 36 were offered to South Korea for about $2.6b dollars the apache upgrade has to be less than that. Mcz I’m really not sure how comparing german typhoons with uk apaches is even remotely relevant.

as
as
November 10, 2013 7:48 pm

I do not know how many times apache has come up against MANPADS.
They are shot at on a fairly regular bases with KPV heavy machine gun in afgan.
They have also got shot at by ZU-23-2 aa guns.
They appear to have quite good survivability.

as
as
November 10, 2013 7:56 pm

This is from wiki page for AgustaWestland Apache

“The requirement for a new attack helicopter was identified by the British government in the early 1990s. In 1993, invitations to bid were issued. Bids received included the Eurocopter Tiger, a modernised Bell AH-1 SuperCobra, the AH-64 Apache, the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, and the Agusta A129 Mangusta.[4] Both the Tiger and Cobra variant were derided for requiring development, and thus risk, while the Apache was combat proven, however its performance in the First Gulf War was criticised by competitors.”

Was not picking the other dodging a bullet, the tiger in particular has had so many problems.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 10, 2013 8:42 pm

As far as I’m aware the MoD now counts the following towards its costs per flight hour: forward and depth servicing, fuel costs, crew costs, training costs and the cost of capital charge and depreciation.

Which in a sense is a good thing, but in another sense it means the true “true” cost of operating the aircraft is hidden. Depreciation is the work of the Devils accountants, the cost of the capital charge is a sunk cost, and the crew presumably are on fixed annual contracts (more or less) such that they would cost the same if they were flying a Tornado or an autogyro.

Bob
Bob
November 10, 2013 9:41 pm

The group think on this site is astonishing.

WAH-64D is the best pre AH-64 Block III attack helicopter available. It has been in Afghanistan since at least 2006 where it has been highly effective and earned the respect of UK ground forces and the fear of its opponents. It has been one of the stand-out bits of kit in that conflict. It is difficult to imagine another asset with the combination of firepower, protection and sensor suite anywhere. And yet we have had people suggest it be dumped.

An AH-1Z will be just as expensive to operate- it even uses the same power plant as the Apache and it would have been at least four years later to Afghanistan than the WAH-64D seeing as it was not cleared for combat until the end of 2010. The cost savings the USMC claim come from the type using a range of common systems and components to the UH-1Y (hardly relevant to the UK) and not any particular quality of the aircraft.

The UK does use the longbow radar in Afghan; it can find far more than just tanks.

UK flight hour costs are a joke, the UK uses the depreciation and amortisation element to prove whatever agenda happens to fit at that moment in time. It is was exactly that costing manipulation that was used to claim Harrier was more expensive to operate than Tornado.

Wildcat has it’s place, mostly as a utility helicopter though its speed and (paltry) sensor will allow it to do some scout work. It could never come close to offering what the WAH-64D does.

Jed
Jed
November 11, 2013 2:31 am

So how about we just run them till they fall to bits and then buy a marinerized multi-role variant of the as yet non-existent Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, with X2 technology – fast and long ranged for operating from our enormous LPH’s, oops sorry “strike carriers” …. :-)

Bob – no group think. I have advocated previously for AAC to replace Wildcat, Lynx AH9A and Apache with variant of AW149 that could be armed appropriately and could if required carry Longbow radar (but more likely under nose radome, not rotor hub mast mounted. Less than 100% in any particular role, be it armed scout, anti-armour, troop transport, armed troop assault or casevac – but potentially offering considerable through-life and operational cost benefits.

Wildcat by the way, was not designed to do the Lynx utility role, it was designed as an armed scout to work in conjunction with the Apache, with a lot of space in the rear cabin taken up by avionics etc. I believe some additional Wildcats have been ordered in a “utility” config, but that was not the original concept behind its development – the up engined AH9A is really the AAC’s “utility” cab.

SR
SR
November 11, 2013 6:23 am

Most of the marine operations issues with Apache lie in the exotic metals and composites used in the airframe. A marinisation programme would need to be extensive and, as quite rightly pointed out, hideously expensive. The modernisation alone will be bad enough. I believe there is a huge role for armed attack helicopters – I really think we should be abandoning seaborne assault altogether and move to heliborne assaults for strategic raiding. It fits much better with the idea of precise surgical attacks, rather than getting bogged down in establishing beacheads that require much more effort to defend. If we have seen one lesson from the last couple of decades it’s that getting heavy equipment ashore is best done to an established port with a RoRo.

The problem is that there is still no joined up thinking behind our future defence procurement and strategy. The Army bought Apache without considering its wider utility – I agree that we should have gone for the SeaCobra as a more flexible asset. Not everything we buy should be marinised, but with such a small ORBAT we should be making better use of what we do buy.

Wildcat is not such a silly idea – we seemed to manage quite well with its TOW-armed predecessors, why not use the Wildcat as well? It doesn’t need to be up armoured and made into an Apache-lookalike. Use it as a scout to take on isolated targets of opportunity, and call in the heavier Apache when needed. We won’t always be fighting insurgents in isolated areas (for which Apache appears to be especially useful) so let’s not get too carried away arming for the next Afghanistan.

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 10:09 am

Martin,

The supposed issue of Apache obsolescence has very little (if anything) to do with the bespoke nature of WAH-64D. The bits that will be obsolete will be the American bits. In fact the “gucci” parts of the WAH-64D mean that the UK birds should actually need less of the Block II upgrade as they already have HELIDAS and more powerful engines.

Dropping Apache for anything else (Wildcat or AW.149) is too stupid to discuss. Whilst replacing it with AH-1Z is even more stupid as it will just be replacing one expensive to operate attack helicopter with another that is actually less capable.

x
x
November 11, 2013 10:17 am

@ SR re the Army

What you have to remember, and we see it here time after time, is that the Army and RAF, which means really then the MoD, see the world differently; there will always be time the convenient host country and there will always be time to charter shipping to move stuff into theatre. Ignore that convenience is built upon Pax Americana. So why should Army worry about marinised anything? Why buy a £200m boring ship that can move a battalion when a £200m aircraft and super helicopter delivers a better visual?

http://olive-drab.com/images/id_ah64apache_01_700.jpg

That picture in that link is how the MoD and the man on street thinks wars are fought. Hi-tech. Modern. Super-duper.

As for heavy equipment what do you regard as heavy? For me that term means tanks and equipment over thirty tons. Not this……..

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/46/LAV-25_USMC.JPG

Helicopters are expensive and vulnerable. Land operations are about mass. Once the helicopter has gone all you have a foot borne overloaded unit with no depth. In Libya like situations really you need to be able to operate vehicles in numbers and helicopters. One isn’t a substitute for the other they complement each other. The ability to pick a coastal location to just go ashore with a couple of companies of well trained infantry with significant firepower into a failed state or remote region isn’t a capability to dismiss.

And finally I ask from where are these helicopters coming? As every time I talk to APATS here about CVF being more LHA Plus *** he will quickly shut me down saying the RN view is that CVF is very much strike carrier lite that may occasionally do other stuff. I know which the UK needs and it isn’t the RN playing Top Bun. If we could afford two or three CBG’s and two or three ARG’s and were facing the PLA(N) , but we can’t afford and we ain’t (yet) facing the Yellow Hordes. A UK ARG makes more sense than a UK CBG. And what we are missing is a class of large fast dock ship not more helicopter capacity.

I have some footage filmed in an early CVF planning meeting…………..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGBdsJxxWn4

*** That is a ship that can move at carrier like speeds, do a bit of “ME TOO” strike and Top Bun , but in reality spends most of its time moving helicopters either for ASW, ASaC/AEW, and “assault”.

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 10:23 am

SR,

AH-7 with TOW was awful, it was terrible, an utter waste of space that the UK should never replicate.

The great thing about Apache is that it is great at both hunting insurgents and destroying massed-armoured formations. Part of its awesomeness is that it is genuinely multi-role.

Fedaykin
November 11, 2013 11:21 am

@SR

Have you speaking to Mike “Sparky” Sparks ;-)

Where do we launch these heliborne assaults from? Oh yes from the Sea if we don’t happen to have a friendly bordering nation!

A heliborne assault form part of a seaborne assault…

Next you will be wanting to replace the Challenger II with the M113

Ted
Ted
November 11, 2013 11:47 am

Helicopters will have to fly from ships to deliver assault forces and intimate support. Even if AH and merlin or chinook were refitted with refuel probes a long range insertion would be very much a one off. So at any severe range helicopters have to either work from a land base closer to the action or a ship.

If CVF is too vulnerable it may stand off at long range and have ocean or other helicopter capable vessels in-between it and the land to offer a refuelling platform. If indeed the threat is too high to have an A400 in a racetrack.

The RM is in need of some AH support. If for instance we were fighting a battle in say North Africa where there could be a number of tanks you either have an embedded MBT force or AHs. Fighter jets can offer some degree of protection but for that intimate capability you need something that can deal with tanks. A Wildcat with 30mm and hellfire/brimstone would offer a degree of this but as already stated they are not as well armoured and as already stated the AH7 was effectively like the rest of the cold war window dressing for an attack helicopter. The next stage up is to use 64Es from a ship accept the maintenance overhead because it is necessary. Or pay a lot for a marinised apache.

Frankly if the only thing we could afford was gazelle with a hellfire on each pylon I would take it. Or get a brigade of challenger on a ferry!!!

Also we can’t argue that it was an MBT killer and then say it’s only use is killing insurgents in isolated areas.

x
x
November 11, 2013 12:47 pm

@ Ted

There is a reason why a USMC MEU only has a “platoon” of tanks. The logistical needs of an MBT are huge. They have 3 ship ARGs with huge logistical back-up that makes our capabilities look decidedly small scale.

Ted
Ted
November 11, 2013 1:23 pm

Exactly, I was suggesting an alternative to AHs and as you have shown it’s not great.

I’m strugguling to find anything that tells me exactly what Wildact will do in its scout role. The only thing I can find is that it will be fitted with an mx15. Great we get a flir camera I am hoping it’s more sophisticated than this. If it is just a camera (I doubt it is) what is the AAC doing? How many apache can we get from the AACs Wildcat program. If the army are looking for a BRH I’m looking for sophisticated terrain radar and target radar (which I cant find anywhere) however if you look on AW website the make quite a big deal of the utility and battlefields control capability. Again I really hope there is something more to it.

Looking at the maritime variant wildcat could have some pretty sharp teeth but it is only really a stand off capability which you can easily achieve with FJ.

Looking at the navalised apache it apears there are issues. There have long been plans for sea apache with the folding tail and rotors you would expect. But… as the wheelbase is so small they expanded the wheel base essentialy creating a new helicopter. I don’t know if that is a real issue or just dreamt up somewhere. If it is then why were we operating from ocean.

@all politicians are the same
“have we ever had to utilise the full capabilities of something Apache”

Probably not, but… Have we ever had to utilize the full capabilities of typhoon or SSBNs. No they occupy a niche area and will be seldom used. What happens when we need this capability and its been cut back???

Monty
November 11, 2013 3:04 pm

To summarise:

– UK Apache fleet has suffered excessive wear and tear as a result of operations in Afghanistan. Agreed.
– If we’re to maintain a viable capability, planning to upgrade / replace the UK’s Apache fleet needs to start now not later. Agreed.
– Anyone who says we don’t need Apache’s capabilities is an a**hole and should be shot. Agreed.
– But, the cost of maintaining our capabilities in this area shouldn’t suck a disproportionate amount from the budget, limiting our ability to fund other equally important programmes, e.g. FRES UV. Agreed.
– The UK was wildly extravagant in building a customised AH-64D: it cost almost double the price of a standard US AH-64D. Agreed.
– Building an upgrade path into the WAH-64D programme was always going to be an issue, incurring both extra costs and time delays. Agreed.
– The UK may be better off buying the Block III AH-64E. Agreed. But to what extent would we lose capability versus the existing fleet?

We have this habit of buying off-the-shelf kit which we then customise around our unique needs. This is fine, but the cost of adding the bells and whistles we deem necessary often adds a significant extra cost. This is financial madness.

Rocket Banana
November 11, 2013 3:07 pm

Still not sure I understand the rationale here.

We will have F35B with Brimstone to take out entire tank batallions.

We will have Merlin with 50-cal to mow down the enemy soldiers when clearing an LZ. If the enemy is better equipped we would have made sure to interdict their movements prior to moving to the LZ, again with F35B. Failing that we land elsewhere because our force is designed to out manourvre the enemy.

An assault would be made up of many troops and many vehicles delivered by LCU (if the beach is the lovelly soft white sands that are needed). In addition there is no reason why a wave of 6 Chinook cannot deliver 200 marines from CVF parked 200nm off the coast.

Once we have landed, the assault copters take on the role of support and logistics (oh, and evac) and operate via the spots on the assault ship(s). Their range requirement reduces and their sortie rate increases as they flit back and forth.

The need for AH (to me) is mostly for the initial vertical assault escort in which Wildcat would be perfectly adequate supported by ASaC and F35B. There is no value in them being armoured because the Chinooks/Merlin HC they are escorting are not.

Apache is only effective whilst it still has cover (hence the design of the longbow radar mast). This demonstrates just how vulnerable it is. Yes, the cabin is a bulletproof bathtub but the rest of it ain’t. It’s a hovering missile target. The best way to engage tanks is with either other tanks (which are expensive to operate at range) or with jet air power.

IMO.

Think Defence
Admin
November 11, 2013 3:08 pm
Reply to  Monty

Its a finger in the air and entirely artificial proposition, but what you prefer

FRES UV plus a better sensor on Wildcat, plus LMM and Hellfire and maybe even some investment in the AAC fixed wing inventory

or

Block III Apache with Hellfire only

You could maybe even get a 20mm fitted to Wildcat, if the bloody Romanians can do it on their Puma’s would it really be that hard on Wildcat

Just thinking, from an eyes on perspective, what we might find ourselves with in the next few years

Those little nano things
Desert Hawk
Watchkeeper
Shadow
Reaper or other MALE RPAS
Wildcat
Apache
F35
Typhoon
Sentinel

Plus the Chinook and Merlin fleet will all have decent optics

Then consider of those what weapons they carry or could do at modest cost, then add on that GMLRS and possible other precision artillery

As awesome as Apache is, still not convinced there is a very strong case for spending more on it to be honest

x
x
November 11, 2013 3:27 pm

@ Ted re SSBN

If CASD hasn’t fired a Trident it is doing its job…………..

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 3:29 pm

Sorry TD, but most of those platforms don’t come close to the combined sensor outfit of an Apache- let alone combine the survivability and firepower the type carries.

Again, Apache is one of the most useful assets the UK has. Virtually without modification it can destroy tank battalions or hunt insurgents. In Afghanistan its used its 30mm gun for fire support with metres of friendly troops and swatted insurgents miles away with hellfires. Its escort of Chinooks has saved many a helicopter.

Great you put a 20mm cannon on a Wildcat- now you have a dead wildcat crew next time they get close enough to a target to use it. The upside being that is unlikely unless by accident as the MX-15 is pathetic compared to the EO outfit on an Apache (not to mention the Longbow and ESM stuff).

Very few of the assets the UK was procuring prior to 2001 have proven to be much use in both conventional and COIN- Apache is one of them and it is truly bizarre to suggest it should be dumped. Relying on F-35B is just silly.

SR
SR
November 11, 2013 3:34 pm

Okay, excellent, more inability to misread posts evident.

If you go back the phrases were ‘seaborne’ and ‘heliborne’. Just have a quick think before replying and realise how dull your quick-fire responses were. Cheers muchly.

Let’s have a wee look at our amphibious capability shall we? As has been done repeatedly by our esteemed host TD. The UK has zero ability to mount a credible SEABORNE assault. A handful of LCVP’s? If you bring ALBION, BULWARK and two Bay class to the party, how many landing craft is that again? Six? Unloading tanks onto mexefloats onto a convenient beach that the opposition forgot about? Because of course, every beach is ideal – you just rock up and paddle in, don’t you? You really make me laugh. The opposition will have looked at their beaches and gone ‘you know what, all but five of our beaches are rocky with crap approaches, open to big swells, etc’, a measure of defensive planning that is entirely on the side of the defender. So they then sow the only available beaches with landmines – oh, sorry, forgot, all our opponents are going to abide by international law, aren’t they? Unless of course you are planning on assaulting a nation where the defenders are armed solely with sharpened fruit. And then, what you do, see, is zero in some artillery hidden in bushes. And maybe sow bigger sea mines in the approaches. Or missile batteries. Or FIAC – jetskis and speedboats armed with RPGs and other cheap weapons. And you’d never get away with flying an aircraft low and fast off the coast to catch the defending force off guard, never happened before…

The complexity of establishing a beach head for a full amphibious assault is sufficient to demand a very heavy, very capable assaulting force. The defender holds all the advantages. So yes, the USMC could do it, with LCACs carrying tanks and sheer firepower. But unless Royal goes in under the cover of the entire US military, we, the UK, are not going to pull off any sort of SEABORNE invasion unless we are landing a very small number of troops FOR A RAID. Unless you are invading an undefended beach in Somalia, which I don’t think is quite the capability we’re after.

However, as you wittily pointed out, aircraft have to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, operating offshore out of range of sea mines, visual surveillance, FIAC and with more than half a heartbeat’s notice of an impending air raid puts up that impossible barrier of, what, 12 miles that a helicopter would have to fly to get to shore. If only our NGS and air cover could reach that far. No, you’re right, heliborne assaults from sea are impossible. Much better to drag it all inshore and expose it for repeated attack with slow landing craft, than operate at sea, out of range of the really nasty asymmetric stuff and where all your weapons and sensors are optimised.

X, I don’t understand your objection. I quite specifically said, ‘Not everything we buy should be marinised, but with such a small ORBAT we should be making better use of what we do buy’. Notwithstanding my preference for a marinised attack helicopter, are you saying that our defence procurement thinking is joined up? Because if that’s the case, you’ve got a way better picture of the military defence planning and procurement process than I have.

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 3:36 pm

There is no other platform that combines the firepower, sensor-suite, and survivability of the Apache and can get down low and close to ground forces. It has full utility in both COIN and conventional and its one of the few bits of core budget equipment that can boast that. Dumping it would be absurd.

Peter Elliott
November 11, 2013 3:40 pm

Err – ALbion, Bulwark and 2 Bays would bring 10 LCU not 6..?

Might not be enough for but certainly isn’t ‘zero’.

wf
wf
November 11, 2013 3:52 pm

@SR: if you are talking about major opposed landing, then the USMC are indeed the only games in town. If you are talking about mounting an invasion against the likes of Lt Reyes and an infantry company with attachments, we can do that now. A commando mounted in second hand LVTP7 combined with another landing in waves from a CVF can do much more, especially in combination with some Apache’s. LVT’s of whatever sort are a lot cheaper than helicopters…

Think Defence
Admin
November 11, 2013 4:04 pm
Reply to  Bob

Bob, just thinking across the broad spectrum of capabilities likely to be present anywhere the Apache is and asking a tough question in a world of finite budgets.

Would also add, the lynx Mk9a with the 50cal M3M gets close enough to use it in logistics patrol overwatch and Chinook support and as far as I am aware, not suffered any casualties.

Would be interesting to look at typical engagement ranges for the Apache

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 4:18 pm

Logistics patrol overwatch is hardly hard work compared to what’s asked for from an Apache (invariably there will be an Apache around in case things go south).

If you want something to cut find something useless and pointless. Not one of the most versatile assets the UK has.

Ted
Ted
November 11, 2013 4:25 pm

When the Apache came into service it took a while for the commanders to realise just how much of a game changer it really was. Can we step down form that.

Merlin is beautiful (I really love it) but as far as I am aware the .50 cannot be directed by the mx15. This is fine when you are flying in troops and then beggaring off again the key being the sheer weight of fire. Now your troops are on the ground, they don’t have situational awareness and they are still trying to get the map the right way up. And the enemy open up. FJs may be overhead but are usually going to require a talk on or at least confirmation of all friendly forces. GMLRS and artillery are ready but it is going to take a while for the guys to figure out firing locations. Apache has seen the guys insert may see the initial firing points or will start hunting with FLIR. It can then ID the targets and remove them. To be honest this is the key with any attack helicopter. The apache is the top of its game why would we not keep it that way. Especially at the expense of the wildcat which as much as I love rotary is starting to seem like a utility helicopter desperately trying to justify the expense.

@ x November
“If CASD hasn’t fired a Trident it is doing its job………….”
Good point but you get the idea :D

If you could fit a rotating canon to wildcat we are getting some of the way there and to be honest this is one of my dreams for the royals.


” If we’re to maintain a viable capability, planning to upgrade / replace the UK’s Apache fleet needs to start now not later. Agreed.”
Yes and no. I (clearly) believe its not a capability to lose. Do we have to upgrade NOW? No a Tornado replacement would have been nice years ago but we didn’t need it.
Why would we upgrade now? The way I see it, we are taking probably the most tired air frames out of Afghan this year. Put them in a C17 (or whatever) close the back and don’t open it until you are at the assembly line of whoever we chose to upgrade with. Then continue like that.
If we decide it will be more expensive to upgrade then we either leave them be until 2027 or go and but bright shiny new things at the end of afghan.

The overwhelmingly disturbing idea for me at the moment is Wildcat is a utility helicopter with a gun sticking out the door and a MX15. Granted utility is something we need but they are meant to be so much more than that. If I’m right I would much rather see and ec620 with a camera as a battlefield reconnaissance helicopter and basically anything for a utility aircraft.

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 4:43 pm

Ted,

Good post. I am as worried about the idea of Wildcat as a scout as you are of it being a utility helicopter. The MX-15 is a poor choice for a scout role and there appears to have been no effort to arm the Army ones beyond the door mounted .50 cal. Contrast that with the OH-58F.

The equipment fit on the Wildcat is about the same as UH-72A Lakota- a utility helicopter- not a scout.

x
x
November 11, 2013 4:54 pm

@ SR

Actually I went out of my way to say there is little or no joined up thinking within the MoD. What surprised me is considering who employs you you would think there would any deviation from that track. An institution that can’t even think through buying what I will describe as its general purpose vehicle. (Lots of thought to getting FRES into aeroplanes, amphibiousity not so much.) The Army likes to regard itself in the same way as its fellow organisations across the Channel; first line of defence, a grand continental army. It is institutionally opposed to anything that implies its future lies as “a weapon best fired by the Navy”. It is Army dominance of our post-WW1 defence establishment that has lead us to where we are now. Joined up thinking? Marinisation? Don’t me laugh……

Chris
Chris
November 11, 2013 4:59 pm

x – ref lots of thought to getting FRES into aeroplanes – drive really fast and whatever is in the way will move?

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
November 11, 2013 5:21 pm

@X

I think there is much in what you say, however I am not entirely without hope. Look at this idea to chop the regular army back to 80K, but recruit the “TA” up to 30K to compensate. That clearly is never going to work, and anyone with half a brain would have seen that it would never work. I therefore wonder if the plan was introduced as a way of reducing the army to something getting close to what we actually need without raising more opposition than would have been the case if they had come out with a plan for a 80k army up front.

There are, perhaps, reasons to hope that the UK will re-balance its forces to actually meet its defence needs. However, I am sure the politicians aided and abetted by the MoD will feck it up.

Fedaykin
November 11, 2013 6:31 pm

@SR

We established a beachhead in 1982 with less dedicated amphibious assault kit then we have now!

The UK has an amphibious assault capability second only to the US, show me another Northern European nation that has the capability the UK does to put troops on a beach.

Sometimes the only way we can put troops down is from the sea.

Mark
Mark
November 11, 2013 7:04 pm

I think of the conflicts we’ve been in since the Falklands and can see apache involved and very useful in them all. Can’t say the same about heavy artillery or tanks. Apache blk3 from reading the material sounds like a new fuselage,its perhaps during that,treatments for mitigation of corrosion to supt naval operations could be added.
If the army do not wish to retain the aviation capability they could always transfer it to the airforce and we could shut down the AAC.

How do you pay for it well a little list of scrap puma, scrap watchkeeper uav or reaper, scrap heavy artillery, scrap more main battle tanks, reduce wildcat numbers to sf and navy only, reduce f35b numbers to 36. The army has itself in such a mess with vehicles allowing it to spend more money developing a fres uv would undoubtably end up like fres sv so we should save them from themselves and invest in apache instead.

Rocket Banana
November 11, 2013 7:59 pm

Funny how Apache is such a bone of contention.

They’re great, but they are not the only game in town.

They are missile fodder.

The more the clock ticks on towards eternity, the more and more they become better and better missile fodder.

They have no future utility.

AH will eventually become missile carriers, just like jets have (certainly the brick they call F35).

Missiles will dominate until their Achilles heel is fully exploited, which is range, and everything becomes more and more stand-off for both detection and targeting.

I see this within the next decade. It’s happening already.

WiseApe
November 11, 2013 8:05 pm
Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 11, 2013 8:39 pm

X,

“There is a reason why a USMC MEU only has a “platoon” of tanks. The logistical needs of an MBT are huge.”

That statement needs a bit of a reality check. Clearly, the needs are not zero, but I don’t believe the needs to be as “huge” as you state.

Oddly for the Army, there’s some science behind this, or at the least, some simple arithmetic. ;)

The logistic scalings are based on “battlefield days”, a central set of assumptions on fuel usage, ammunition needs, rations, other bulk goods, spares @ an attrition rate for main engines, gearboxes and so on. These assumptions are just that – assumptions, but quite a lot of work goes into fine-tuning them based on operational experience, and they are also set according to conflict type: general war, COIN, peace enforcement and so on.

Anyway, they are all expressed in terms of what is needed (by weight and volume) to support one squadron for one day: a “day of supply” or DOS.

the doctrine is (unless it changed) that an armoured Battlegroup deployed with 5 DOS held on wheels. One DOS on the SQMS’s wagons, one at A1 Echelon, and 3 DOS at A2 Echelon. Supporting logistic regiments had more DOS but not yet broken down from pallets and mostly held on DROPS trailers in dumps.

One DOS for a Challenger Squadron is held in one 4T fuel bowser, one 4T water bowser, 2 times 4T flatbed trucks (ammo and rations / bulk crap) and one 4T wagon with a main engine, a gearbox and an APU. So, total 5 4T trucks plus the SQMS landrover*** keeps 14 Challengers and half a dozen smaller wagons fettled for fighting for 24 hours.

A total of about 45 Linear Metres (LIMS), according to my now out of date Staff Officer’s Handbook.

This now all enters the realms of loggie shit. Ships can be measured in LIMS, I know that, but I don’t know what actual ship capacities are. We used to put a Brigade of wagons at several thousand LIMS onto Sea Crusader when she did the Bosnia run from north Germany.

Clearly, in reality you get more effective LIMS as anything after 5 days can remain palletised and so use much less space.

Scale everything down to US MEU size (i.e. only 4 MBT), and aiming for a still long in combat period of 30 days, you’d need 4/14ths of a daily 45 metre LIM, times 30 days = about 385 LIM. Hardly two rows of wagons on a Ro-Ro ferry.

*** with sweeties, Coke and choccie bars in the back that the boys bought on tick (with differential pricing as you went up in rank :( . How can a Coke cost a trooper 50 pfennigs and me 5 Deutsch Marks? Only explained by “you looked thirsty Boss and we know you can afford it”) and which creative accounting I used to have to balance in the Squadron Account when back in barracks.

El Sid
El Sid
November 11, 2013 8:54 pm

Apache is a great bit of kit, and putting the existing engine/electronics in a remanufactured airframe is probably going to be the cheapest option – but it’s not something to do blindly without exploring the other options. Just think of our grand strategy – trying to avoid boots on the ground, so no more Camp Bastions – where do you base your Apaches then? The whole austere base thing looks flawed now that man-portable guided weapons (mortars etc) are proliferating, also qv the attack that destroyed the Harriers at Bastion last year. The future of our power projection capability has to be Ocean and QE – and marinisation is one aspect where the Apaches are weak, folding blades and new windscreen wipers do not a naval aircraft make.

Apaches have the specialist pilots and better protection against gunfire – but as Simon says, if you’re only worried about gunfire then you had better only be attacking the most basic of threats, as anyone half-serious will have MANPADs. One of those in your rotorhead or tail rotor will ruin your day.

So in keeping with the running theme on TD – of modularity and commonality – what can we find in the cupboards to put on our naval helicopters? Particularly in the parts bin of the Cobra and Seahawk, given that they don’t have to go into intensive care every time they get a whiff of the briny. The MH-60 has the same survivability system and countermeasures as the AH-1W, can carry pylons for a total of 8 Hellfire, or a pod with a 20mm gun. You can imagine those pylons carrying Hydra, or with a modest amount of development CRV7, LMM and Brimstone. There’s a podded version of Longbow available for the Cobra.

Could these bits and pieces be bodged together into something as good as the Apache? Of course not, not even an 80% solution. But the options we have are :

<=66 of a 100% solution that goes to sea reluctantly and has unique logistics requirements, when our grand strategy calls for something much more purple.
The 60% solution that's fully navalised, has less well-trained pilots but is incremental to our existing helicopter fleets
The 0% solution that allows us to buy more TSR-2/Tomahawks/T26/[insert pet project here].

We'll probably end up with remanufactured Apaches, but it's not a no-brainer.

El Sid
El Sid
November 11, 2013 8:59 pm

@mike
The Septics wanted to use Longbow in Afghanistan but the hot-n-high performance of the AH-64D wasn’t good enough with the old engines so they had to remove any excess weight. British Apaches had the more powerful engines from Merlin and so they had the weight budget to carry Longbow.

mike
mike
November 11, 2013 9:09 pm

@El Sid

Cheers for that I did feel it was something regarding weight; but as often as we like to trumpet the ‘better engines’, we lack the gear box to fully use said engine!

As to weight, that is a major stick in Apache’s eye at the moment, with the current gearbox, the required flotation gear for any substantial Naval ops would really hinder Apaches’ performance.
Though the fleet has gone through a temporary ‘naval-lite’ series of mods, such as seals around certain panels, certain chemical covering and new windscreen wipers… Apache is still very much something we only can use very close to shore, and perhaps that is all we need?

Rocket Banana
November 11, 2013 9:15 pm

Six Apache in one of these could be useful.

They could all then stay out of the rain when it gets a little salty ;-)

x
x
November 11, 2013 9:31 pm

Mike asked “Apache is still very much something we only can use very close to shore, and perhaps that is all we need?”

I say again (not just to you Mikey but to all) from what platform post Ocean post Lusty will we fly Apache in enough numbers to make it worthwhile?

mike
mike
November 11, 2013 9:44 pm

@x

I think we would not dare let either CVF get close enough to any meaningful aggressors shore, T45 or otherwise, to give Apache any meaningful combat endurance, even if equipped with the UK specific ferry tank. If ’82 is anything to go by… and with greater accessibility of AS missiles… most likely it’ll be our LSL’s and derivatives, like in Carlos in ’82.

I just dont think people seeing one of the CVF as an Ocean/LHA is right, would we want to risk loosing a foating airfield to say, Brahmos?

I am thinking a partially modded Apache for some brown water/littoral ops is a more realistic option than trying to make the airframe fully navalised.

Bob
Bob
November 11, 2013 10:38 pm

Just read simon’s last comment, and now I am struggling to stop laughing! Seriously, that sort of ignorant rant counts as discussion here? I can only assume that the concept of countermeasures has passed him by. Oh well, good comedy anyway.

Ted
Ted
November 11, 2013 10:38 pm

@ Simon
Apache can get shot down yes, but so can a less survivable wildcat. Defensive aids suites evolve alongside manpads. It is a mini arms race like practically every warfare.

You are correct that they are vulnerable but so is a FJ or CVF or a private. The difference between apache and wildcat is not that apache cannot be targeted, it is that apache has a sophisticated defensive aids suite. To add to that as long as one apache survives the perpetrator is unlikely to get away with it.

Is apache becoming a missile carrier? Yes, everything is even ground vehicles. And yes warfare is getting more and more stand off and probably always will. This is one of the reasons why we need apache. As long as there are boots on the ground they are going to need air support. If fighter jets are mainly missile delivery devices their close in air support is compromised. We must retain the ability to get an aircraft overhead finding and fixing targets both on its own and with help from ground and other assets (such as the phantom wildcat BRH).

Is it essential to have apache? No. Is it necessary to have an equal capability? Yes. Why change type when we could upgrade and draw on the existing experience?

x
x
November 11, 2013 10:48 pm

@ Mike

Ships are supposed to go into harm’s way. For less than war emergencies against less than peer enemy I don’t see there being a “problem”. Can any ship afford to be lost then? What about an LHD packed with sailors and marines? I am not suggesting…….

http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/B-and-I/Tipperary01.jpg

but 100nm out should be safish which is feet dry in 40 minutes flying time. If CVF isn’t up to that then it isn’t up too much. Consider further the likely calibre of opponent in a national only op; would they find CVF let alone have the systems to defeat F35b, Viper, Ceptor, and our soft kill capabilities all queued from Crowsnest? And consider the ship’s bibble of safety in a coalition (read holding the US’s towel and sports drink) ..

Again I ask from what platform would these Apache fly? Are we really saying there is going to be a situation that we can predict so precisely where we know the optimum solution will be an Apache flying from say a T26? One Apache would tip the balance would be so useful? Don’t see it. Now T26 with a double hangar and say 3 Wildcat that would be a different matter entirely……..

x
x
November 11, 2013 10:51 pm

Funny little helicopters flying off a sensibly sized ship……..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHbY72Y2SKg

@ Mike

My answer to you is being moderated. :)

Rocket Banana
November 12, 2013 8:23 am

Bob,

You carry on looking back and I’ll concentrate on looking to the future.

If you can’t see how things are developing and proliferating then so be it – just don’t expect everyone to be as blind.

Bob
Bob
November 12, 2013 9:43 am

Simon,

Yes, the future- that place with ever better DIRCM’s, decoys and jammers and where helicopters can continue utilising terrain as a defensive measure. The future is very obvious yet somehow you do not understand it.

Monty
November 12, 2013 10:41 am

I am not sure everyone here realises how knackered our Apache fleet has become. The number of sorties / hours flown has rapidly worn out the air frames. If there is one bit of kit that is cutting edge in terms capability and totally flexible in terms of role, it is Apache. I wouldn’t want to deploy ground troops anywhere without having Apaches at my disposal firing Hellfire or 30 mm as needs dictate.

I have always thought Wildcat was a waste of time and money and only support their purchase on the grounds that any helicopter is better than no helicopter. Frankly, I’d like to see the Army replace all Lynx variants with a fleet of 50+ Blackhawks – a much better utility helicopter, a much better weapons platform than Wildcat and not bad at reconnaissance either.

ADB
ADB
November 12, 2013 12:39 pm

,

Exactly HOW knackered are they? I have read that the fleet passed 100,000 hours overall in 2012 – assuming an even spread, that’s about 1500 hrs each. What’s the life span (I’ve forgotten the correct term – fatigue life?) of the Apache?

x
x
November 12, 2013 1:47 pm

@ Monty

We do know that Apache is cream crackered. The thing is the Army is sort of faced with a choice between a 30mm and Hellfire on one platform which is expensive and has low endurance over the battlefield, and perhaps more of the Army having a 30 mm and missiles on a cheap platform that has high endurance closer to hand more of the time.

Will fall out of the sky after a short time if not refuelled and fettled very regularly,

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/AH-64D_Apache_Longbow.jpg

Will not fall off the ground and will go a lot further between refueling and fettling,

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/MCV-80.jpg

The firepower deficit could further be addressed by pushing PGM further down the Army’s orbat. That £600m could equip a good number of the Army’s mortar platoons with a vehicle mounted 120mm mortar.

Bob
Bob
November 12, 2013 1:52 pm

x,

An Apache has far superior tactical mobility than any ground vehicle and a sensor-suite unmatched by anything else in inventory. It’s not just about Hellfires and guns.

x
x
November 12, 2013 2:28 pm

@ Bob

Those sensors could be hung off more cheaper helicopters, UAV and vehicles (mast mounted say).

Nobody is disputing the mobility or firepower of the attack helicopter. But they appear to be best used en masse. I think the expression is violence of action.

But how far away is the enemy in a contact? How much of Apaches’ use in Afghanistan is due to a lack of numbers on the ground and a lack of organic firepower?

Um. Let say we could have put a 30 mm cannon and an EOD on a cherry-picker like mount and put one or two of these in each Afghan patrol base. Seeing as patrols rarely went beyond a 1km from the base I think a mount like I have just described would have answered most fire support questions.

Where and when will we need the AH obvious potency against armour?

The Army is short of armoured/protected vehicles. Isn’t it a good idea for us to reduce the attrition rate of troops in action first rather than worry about a platform that will be used mostly to shore up and rescue? A helicopter can’t hold ground. A helicopter can’t enter buildings.

A 120mm mortar has sufficient range to reach across a whole brigade’s front. Missiles can be hung off turrets.

Ted
Ted
November 12, 2013 3:45 pm

The most knackered one will be the afghan ones in all probability. Hence why I suggested sticking in a C17 in afghan and flying them straight to wherever they are going to be upgraded.

@X
“but 100nm out should be safish which is feet dry in 40 minutes flying time. If CVF isn’t up to that then it isn’t up too much. Again I ask from what platform would these Apache fly?”

Even if whatever carries the apache is a long way out for defensive or offensive reasons we could still have a Better defended ship closer to shore. A T26 or T45 so a pair of apaches can fly from big flat topped thing towards the coast. One lands and refuels while the other endurance orbits then they switch. Now both can depart for the actual battlefield with a full or close to full tank of gas (one having more does not matter because it will have to wait for other to refuel on way back anyway.) Thus you are using that old lily pad idea. Hover refuels or in flight refuels could further decrease the time taken. The closer the home ship is based the better but there are things we could develop if our apaches are navalised to make amends for the vulnerability. Once you’ve got a beach head a refueling point can be established quickly even if you don’t base the whole helicopter force on land.

One problem I thought of last night… Wildcat is being developed so it can speak to our apaches right? Ok hopefully we are paying for the software and not just a really expensive utility helicopter with a camera. If Wildcats main role is to speak to and aid apache does this not make the probability that the MOD will just drop apache somewhat remote? Yay!!! But hang on, will Wildcat have been developed to speak to 64E? I flippin hope so.

If not what should the AAC be doing? My view is they should pass over Wildcat completely to the Navy. Ok they are different aircraft but the fuselage is said to be relatively modular. The navy can use for utility as they do with lynx if they want or can have more Anti sub and surface capability. Or they will pass it on to the marines who as normal will make the best of a bad job (what like AH7 No surely), The AAC then assesses what it needs. Does it need utility? If yes buy a cheap utility aircraft someone suggested AW149 so AW are still happy. If not then the RAF will fill the gap they have Puma and Chinook. Do they need a BRH? If yes they either go out and buy a flying sensor in effect that needs to be impressive ( given the crowsnest program on merlin I wonder if LM have something clever for looking at the ground on the back of a Heli) even so Sentinel, Rivet joint and other RAF platforms can provide some of this. If Wildcat is meant to be like someone said to apache what CVRT is to chally. Then what we are really looking at is a small air frame with a camera and gizmos possibly twin crew. Like an EC620 (120 but with the eurocopter 6 instead) or an AW119kx. Both also offer a tiny passenger and cargo capability so if you wanted to fly out say a small EOD team and the RAF don’t feel like it there you go. Does the AAC really want a twin engine navalised aircarft for peeking over the top of hills? If it doesn’t, why did you draw up a contract? If you have two or even one honest Nos there then more apache should be bought.

Wildcat. Is a great helicopter… for the navy and builds on the success of the Navy lynx. I think it is possibly a bit to much for the army. Apache… already has (for what I can make out) the capability of wildcat but can fir canon, rockets and missile in intimate support. Defensive aids will constantly evolve and as someone mentioned missiles don’t tend to go through hills. That said it currently is not viable to operate for extended periods at sea and I think this must change if we are to upgrade.

@ Martin
“all the guys on the ground in the stan appear to love apache. Should that not count for something in the decision?”
The guys on the ground used to say they loved harrier above almost everything else, but that was because the Yanks were the other option. Your right if the people at the pointy end think they are good why are even considering that these could be removed? (ohh wait Harrier… Well you can only hope)

x
x
November 12, 2013 4:09 pm

@ Ted

So your plan is to use multi-hundred million pound escorts as fuel bowsers so we can put an extra few 30mm cannon in to the fight? What if these escorts are needed elsewhere to do the jobs for which HMG buys multi-hundred million pound escorts?

And if Wildcat is too much for the AAC why isn’t the more exotic and expensive Apache too much?

The USMC can afford to fly 4 Cobra and 4 or so AV8b in a CAS role because they have large LHD close to shore protected by CBG further back. It appears that the RN have little appetite for CVF operating as a LHA, it will pushed back deep field in the defence role, and so again from where post-Ocean post-Lusty will we fly AH in large numbers?

AH were designed to be used in squadron strength to punch holes and rapidly reinforce ground forces. Remember without the boots on the ground there would be no need for CAS. A helicopter is a pretty inefficient platform to have orbiting an area to provide on call fires in one and pairs.

http://images.gizmag.com/hero/ah-64d-apache-combat-block-iii-helicopter.jpg

Monty
Monty
November 12, 2013 4:36 pm

@ADB,

We’re not being given the full picture on the state of our Apache fleet, although if you ask senior AAC personnel (no names, no pack drill) to comment in private, they’ll tell you that they’re seriously used-up.

Bob’s comment really nails it: ‘An Apache has far superior tactical mobility, than any ground vehicle and a sensor-suite unmatched by anything else in inventory. It’s not just about Hellfires and guns.’

The ability for an Apache to stand-off at about one click and monitor insurgent activity is truly excellent. Ground units deployed in Afghanistan frequently conduct operations with Apaches in an overwatch position. The WAH-64D can often identify enemy firing positions more easily than infantry on the ground. This is partly due to the Apache’s cabin layout which provides much better visibility and situational awareness than say the Wildcat or Blackhawk’s more conventional cabin.

All that said, x makes a good point about 30 mm cannons and Hellfire’s being mounted to less expensive machines. I wouldn’t want to get rid of the Apache fleet, but I’d love to see additional helicopters armed with above firepower. It would do much to compensate for the fact that we only have 227 Challenger 2s deployed with frontline regiments.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
November 12, 2013 4:54 pm

Do we have any true reconnaissance helo’s left, I always like combining roles into less airframe types for logistics reasons, but surely multirole craft leave less time for the niche roles.

Ted
Ted
November 12, 2013 5:01 pm

@x
I’m not saying wildcat or apache is too much for the AAC financially. Apache has proven its ability for INTIMATE (there is a difference) air support and as much as it was designed with bigger things in mind it still does what it does well. Wildcat on the other hand is a Naval aircraft that seems to be looking for something to do. It is too much for the AAC in that if they truly want a BRH or utility helicopter they are getting a medium sized twin engine helicopter which isn’t really perfect in either role.

Look at the AW119kx or an EC120 they are small helicopters with a small lift capability. As I see it instead of having apache (which IS a lot of helicopter) and wildcat which will also be a lot of helicopter they could have apache and a small single engine type for chucking a load of water for an overstretched patrol in or for peeking over hills at tanks. Wildcat is slightly bigger than lynx and is lynx really what the army want anyway? As it stand it looks like Wildcat has an army variant to split the costs of the program with the modulaity everyone likes. However the moduality compromises its effectiveness.

Reviewing my previous post an AW149 is too much as well that should be an RAF asset.

With regards the escorts… if we are sending in troops there are going to be ships floating about protecting them so at least some escorts will be there but we could use a LPD(?) or any sort of Heli compatible ship it need not be just escorts. Also if things are kicking off badly enough for us to be not only sending in troops but also keeping our big flat tops well over the Horizon would we really be sending HMS Diamond to host a cocktail party in New Zeeland? Things would have to be pretty dire for our ships to be that far out if at all necessary.

As for the orbiting I’m not suggesting that they are used like FJs and have a dedicated time on task this would be for two aircraft to respond to a specific tasking. You could even have two apaches forward deployed on a ship or two inshore to respond to TIC. Could they be used in the FJ kind of zone? With a tanker and if they were refuel capable yes but again you require a risk mitigated environment for the tanker aircraft.

Overall I’m saying Wildcat is too big for what the army needs and does not seem to deliver it either.

x
x
November 12, 2013 5:30 pm

We mustn’t substitute MICV for MBT but we must remember that Germany ran amok through Europe with tanks significantly lighter, less well armed, and less well armoured than Warrior. Their advantage was, is our’s today, their all arms integration. If we were to fight the Chinese a decade from now the majority of their forces will still have more in common with those of the 50s and 60s than the 90s or 00s. A regiment of Chally, back up by 3 regiments of Warrior, and arty (perhaps using PGM) would be difficult for the Chinese to contain. Though fitting ATGM to turrets isn’t ideal in terms of firepower it would be worth it. Not ideal no. One Apache equals enough Javelin to give every Warrior in a brigade 4 plus Javelin They would be spread across the brigade at point of need.

A lot of what I am reading here reminds me of a story about a man wanting to buy a new Volvo at the time when airbags and anti-lock brakes were becoming common. Anti-lock were standard on the Volvos and the airbags an optional extra. The man tried in vain to get Volvo sell him a car with airbags instead of anti-lock because he thought he would be safer with air-bags. He wanted to swap an active safety device that prevents accidents for a passive device that only works after an accident. Arguing that Army units are better off with Apache when there are insufficient protected vehicles with insufficient firepower strikes me as a similar. Apache makes a difference overhead, but it isn’t overhead all the time, unlike the section’s vehicle that is always with them. If the Army has £600m it would be better spent on a brigade’s worth of modern 8×8 (just buy the French or German vehicle; just assume countries with large indigenous automotive industries know a bit about how to screw a vehicle together) or two brigades worth of Warthog. In the last few decades most of European allies have been to war less in and still managed to renew their military vehicles fleets at least once. (Of course you can’t spend money on ops and then have money to spend on new vehicles. :) )

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
November 12, 2013 5:35 pm

The army won’t always have vehicles, if I was on a foot patrol I would like too know I could call up an Apache if I came under fire.

x
x
November 12, 2013 5:39 pm

@ Engineer Tom

Um. I am not sure how to answer that one.

mike
mike
November 12, 2013 5:46 pm

@X

All good points raised. I dont know much Naval operating philosophy nor history, so I learn as I go…as good as any crab can.
But I still see red warning lights when we all think CVF can act as a LHA in a ‘peer/near peer’ situation like in ’82.

Of course all warships go into danger as all aircraft and soldiers… but I still think that Apache is an asset to be used close in, maybe via CVF in the initial wave, but then supported by LPD/LSL’s until a shore FOB is established.

I just feel that the RN will take the same approach Admiral Woodward did – being (rightfully) very cautious with the valuable carriers. Sad horrid fact is, in a conflict we would be able to loose a frigate or two… but loosing a carrier would really halt an operation.

If we have a CVF floating around close to shore for rotary ops, even with a T45 guard-ship, it would be a short term way of operating, CVF is simply too vital and big an asset to treat like a LHA, as in any serious ’82 like op, the one carrier would need to support the other carrier.

But if your thinking a Libya situation – which even the RAF feels is not the ‘norm’ for future operations – then it works fine sailing close to hammer with Apache on CVF. But I am thinking a more lethally armed opposition, then again, as been mentioned; perhaps I thinking too much about the CVF hull on it own… T45’s reason of existence is to give such vital assets and operating areas that protective bubble, reinforced by frigates own SAM systems. That is why we gold-plate, so we’re ready. But Apache cant’ physically get more heavy! Not with that gearbox…

Soon the Army will be screaming blue murder at the “FAA plot to steal its Apaches!” ;)

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
November 12, 2013 5:52 pm

I was making the point that, yes we need to give our troops the right vehicles but they don’t always use them, so if we give them a load of fancy vehicles and they are out on a foot patrol having better defended/armed vehicles won’t help them, where as an Apache can support them when they are using vehicles and when they are on foot.

A balance needs to be found but personally I think having Apaches is more urgent than new vehicles.

x
x
November 12, 2013 6:22 pm

@ Engineer Tom

But isn’t Apache a very fancy vehicle? How far do you think a foot patrol can move from a base? A 120mm mortar has a range of 10km. If we take Pi as 3 to make the maths easy let say our patrol walks out 10km due east and then tracks around back west remaining 10km from base, ends up due west, and then walks back 10km to base. So that is 3 x 20 = 60, half it for 30km, plus 2 x 10, and that gives us a distance of 50km I think. That is some patrol. That is a goodly distance to move tactically. Yet we haven’t moved out of range a piece of ordnance that is towards the lower of the scale. In Afghanistan most patrols didn’t make 1000m from their patrol base. They were spread to thin. There was a lack of organic firepower. And hence we ended up using £40m aircraft to fire cannon rounds mostly. Not efficient. Not good.

Mark
Mark
November 12, 2013 6:22 pm

The future cvf I would hope will operate much like Hermes did in the Falklands it had harriers and seaking commandos on board did it not? The serria leone or Falklands type conflict of predominantly light forces getting the job done cause the heavy stuff could get there or perhaps operating in the high arctic would be were I see apache being of much benefit

Also do some apache pilots not head up to RAF leeming to be trained as airborne JTACs

As for a light cheap to operate helicopter for local overseas training, uk taskings we already have one in service need to expand numbers mind but certainly doable http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_412.

Ted
Ted
November 12, 2013 6:23 pm

Agreed, we need a balance of vehicles and aircraft for various reasons. Thats why we have MBTs and not just apaches. However if Chally was too old and needed upgrading we would be in the same boat (or not as the case may be!!!).

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
November 12, 2013 6:56 pm

I assume Apaches could be transported on carriers but for invasions/landings have them stop for fuel on a ship nearer the target.

Does the Longbow radar offer any benefits in naval warfare – could it identify enemy surface boats and aircraft and allow the Apache to deal with them, or transmit the data to a ship for assessment?

Or how about in an airborne early warning role? Assuming Longbow was no use for that then perhaps a better radar could be carried by an Apache in place of missiles, leaving Merlins free to perform other jobs. It has a higher service ceiling (according to wikipedia anyway…) so could see a bit further.

wf
wf
November 12, 2013 7:32 pm

@A Different Gareth: very good point. The US used OH58D during Prime Chance in 1987-89 to spot small Iranian boats. A millimetre wave radar like Longbow should be good at doing that, and combined with Arrowhead, should be even more effective

@x: an Apache is a very expensive way of providing support. A UAV combined with some smart mortar rounds and some NLOS look a lot better. That being said, any form of heliborne assault or medivac will need escort by a helicopter, and Apache, heavily armoured and able to sanitize an LZ in advance of Chinook or Merlin, is indispensable.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 12, 2013 8:00 pm

I must confess to being disappointed that I can only offer one lukewarm soy latte to x’s post, as the heinous crime of assuming pi to be exactly three demands far more. It isn’t like you didn’t have a computer on hand.

x
x
November 12, 2013 8:10 pm

I can offer the court no mitigation. :(

Think Defence
Admin
November 12, 2013 8:45 pm
Reply to  wf

A question then, just to move things along

How much does GMLRS/Exactor and the gazillion airborne imagery collectors pose to Apache upgrade programme

Ted
Ted
November 12, 2013 9:57 pm

@ A Different Gareth
Yes I think it could detect it easily. As I understand it the longbow radar is pre programmed. So say it pings a T70 it gets back that ping back analyses it and says T70 to operator. So it would have to be trained. I could be wrong and there could be a raw format as well.

El Sid
El Sid
November 12, 2013 11:38 pm

One of the Block III upgrades is a maritime mode for Longbow – but one has to ask what it’s bringing that isn’t already being done by cheaper helicopters that are fully marinised and have well-established radars for finding things on the briny.

Ted
Ted
November 13, 2013 4:15 pm

@El Sid
There are loads but basically only WIldcat and Apache will be able to engage FRC at a meaningful range with accuracy. Having seen an episode of warship or something a couple of years ago of all sorts of weapons firing against a captured pirate mother ship with no success this is where there is definitely a need for some form of AH. Yes Wildcat will specialize in this and that is why it should be a Navy helicopter. But if we needed the extra capability apache can engage off of just radar with up to 16 hellfire. If 64E comes with a marinised longbow this is particularly interesting. Would that not imply at least a nod towards littoral ops. Has any sort of if not mainisation at least beefing up of ship operation hardware snuck under the radar (pardon the pun)?

Opinion3
Opinion3
November 16, 2013 10:14 pm

Opinion III

Apache despite it’s WAHification has been a good purchase for the forces. Clearly the Gucci bits have mostly been proven right.

It needs to be replaced. I would suggest an upgrade with consideration to the following options

1. Straight upgrade to E
2. Marinisation and bespoke

Then I’d consider the Naval need, and despite my views that the QE class is not a lillypad having some heliborn CAS might be a handy tool to add to the kit.

I believe we need dedicated Lilipads / Amphibs (LHD or LPD) and in the years to come the lessons learnt from the Balkans will get relearnt. For this we need either

1. Marinised Apache or
2. Viper

Lets not get too hung up on having two similar weapons, in practice it’s like NFS, land heavy guns being similar to naval guns isn’t really the case is it. Horses for Courses eh. So shall we get the Navy some Vipers?

I know I am going to get shot down …… :-)