News story: MOD orders new fleet of cutting-edge Apache helicopters for Army

The new fleet of Apaches are much more capable than their predecessors. Flown by Army Air Corps pilots from the Joint Helicopter Command, they will continue to give the British Army the edge over any future adversaries. The AH‑64E model of the helicopter can also carry more weapons while being more fuel efficient, allowing it to operate in more demanding conditions for longer.

The new Apache AH-64E helicopters, built by Boeing and already in service with the US Army, are being purchased via a Foreign Military Sale with the United States Government.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

This deal will give the British Army an outstanding helicopter at good value for money for the UK taxpayer.

It is part of our plan for more ships, more  aircraft, more troops available at readiness, better equipment for special forces, more being spent on cyber. That plan, backed by a rising defence budget will enable us to deal with the increased threats to our country.

Although being built in the US, the new Apaches will also bring benefits to the UK, with companies in Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Bedfordshire, Cheshire and Gwent being awarded subcontracts by Boeing that collectively represent around 5% of the global Apache supply chain.

The support and training arrangements for the new Apache AH-64E helicopters represent a further opportunity for UK suppliers. The proposed arrangements for these services will be finalised over the next year, with contracts being placed toward the end of the decade. It is envisaged that these future arrangements will support around 350 jobs, a comparable number to that required to support the existing Apache fleet.

Leonardo Helicopters (formerly AgustaWestland) will continue to lead the arrangements to support our existing Apache helicopters until they are retired from service in 2023/24.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon continued:

In the longer term, I want these new Apaches to be maintained in the UK, and for UK companies to do most of the work. This includes Leonardo Helicopters, who have developed substantial knowledge and experience in the support of our current Apache fleet over the last decade and will continue to support the helicopters until their eventual retirement in around eight years’ time.

Buying the AH-64E ‘off the shelf’ allows the MOD to take advantage of the US Government’s larger production programme in Mesa, Arizona, with the UK benefiting from economies of scale. To further guarantee value for money, systems from the current Apache fleet, such as the Modernised Target Acquisition & Designation System, and the Longbow Fire Control Radar, will be reused and incorporated into the new helicopters where possible.

Chief Executive Officer at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, Tony Douglas said:

This is a momentous day for the UK Armed Forces, with these latest generation helicopters set to provide troops with a world-beating capability for decades to come.

The MOD’s deal with the US brings UK benefits too; a range of UK companies are benefiting from working on the global Apache programme and the support and training arrangements of these new attack helicopters presents further exciting opportunities for UK industry.

The Chief of the General Staff General Sir Nick Carter said:

The new Apache fleet will provide the British Army with a highly potent fighting element of its Future Force 2025.  The Apache has already proved its worth on operations in Libya and Afghanistan, supporting UK and coalition troops, and this new model will give our pilots an attack helicopter that is faster, more responsive and more capable.  These improvements will give us the edge on operations as we work to protect the UK and our interests both at home and abroad”.

The deal with the US Government includes an initial support contract for maintenance of the new helicopters, along with spare parts and training simulators for UK pilots. The new helicopter’s improved computing capacity and updated sensors means the new fleet will also be receptive to upgrades in the future, ensuring it remains at the cutting-edge of technology.

The first UK helicopters are due off the US production line in early 2020 and will begin entering service with the British Army in 2022.

from Ministry of Defence – Activity on GOV.UK

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39 Responses

  1. Guess they’ll be robbed down for spares then cut up? The whole point is the airframes are becoming knackered after use on operations isn’t it?

  2. Was there an open competition between this and the Eurocopter, given that today we also announced the purchase of 9 Poseiden which also was not subject to competition I do wonder if it’s Boeing’s lucky day?

  3. Tiger rules itself out with lack of interoperability with the US alone.

    Australia have had a nightmare with theirs. It’s now cheaper for them to a new, larger fleet of AH-1Z’s than correct their Tiger issues.

  4. @HMArmedForcesReview

    I wouldn’t get too hung up over the smaller number of Apaches being procured. The UK never operated all 67 WAH-64D at the same time, many were in the sustainment fleet and later what with Afghanistan cannibalised for spares. Fifty is a solid number and we now have the advantage of operating a common variant to that operated by the US Army and other international operators. That should availability with this marginally smaller fleet, our AH1 fleet were Block I with a whole load of unique sub systems.

  5. Well, looking on the bright side, our overall “attack” helicopter fleet will be 78 with the Lynx Wildcats included. They have a long range, non line of sight missile capability vs a variety of land and sea targets that even the AH-64E does not possess. How many Lynx AH-1 TOWs did we have in 1989?

  6. That 5% of the supplier chain being UK based of the total AH-64E production is great news. To date over 2000 AH-64’s ,in its various generations have been produced and will continue. The US Army has over 700 AH-64D which will be rebuilt or replaced by new build of the E model . A lot of work for a long time. UK exports on the up!
    On another note MBDA are testing Brimstone on UK Army AH-64D helo’s so perhaps the US will by in to it to as a step up from Hellfire’s.

  7. 5% of the non-US Apaches supply line..

    Also a bit puzzled as to the non-line of sight missile carried by Army Wildcats.

    And whether the new Apaches will be marinised with folding rotors etc.

    And US buying Brimstone? Not likely.

    Big boost for Boeing & Arizona, so nice of the UK to keep sending us oodles of money. The Tories are the best for that. Go figure.

  8. The Apache force already had its regiments reduced from 3 squadrons each to 2, while one squadron was retained as the Ops Training unit.
    So maybe 2 Regiments of 2 Squadrons, each with 8 Apache, giving a fleet of 32, with another 8 with 653 Squadron AAC as the Ops Training Squadron. If the remaining 10 go round amongst 673 Squadron for training at Middle Wallop, and maybe 1 at Boscombe for trials that gives next to nothing in reserve sustainment fleet? Maybe squadrons will reduce from the current 8 airframes?

  9. The view that helicopter airframes are ‘knackered’ is incorrect. They have nothing like the fatigue that fast jets have, indeed many helicopters that are 20+ years old are refurbished with new engines, electronics etc and the existing airframe is mostly reused.

  10. Long story short, it was going to start getting very difficult to to sustain the existing WAH-64Ds over the next decade, replacing them with off-the-shelf Es was the most cost effective means of keeping the capability; conveniently the US Army agreed that the UK was right in terms of required performance and DAS first time round so has implemented all the stuff we got bespoke on the WAH-64D- ergo straight from the US is fine.

    The interesting is what happens next;
    Will the UK actually integrate Brimstone?
    Will the Army finally deal with the mess that is Watchkeeper (not just the delivery but the owner) and integrate it with Apache?
    How will this fit with Morpheus, (there were/are Bowman bits directly associated with Apache)?

  11. @Chris

    I don’t think the army version of the Wildcat will be armed with anything more than a HMG.

  12. Another question:

    New Release says AH-64Es can carry “carry more weapons while being more fuel efficient” how true is that? Isn’t the max load out the same as the D or AH1 models?

  13. “US Army agreed that the UK was right in terms of required performance and DAS first time round so has implemented all the stuff we got bespoke”

    I’m surprised to hear that the US Army has adopted all the UK modifications that were made to deploy the aircraft at sea.

    Really surprised.

  14. @Ron5
    The US Apaches have been following the British to sea :

    Obviously they have the AH-1Z already, so the need is less pressing, but just the fact that they’ve tried it says something about the way they’re now thinking. They’ve also added a maritime mode to the Longbow radar.

  15. HMAFR, the ‘more weapons’ doesn’t mean more weapons pylons.

    Fuel and weapons are both added weight. Missiles and rockets can be traded off for increased range, and so the maximum weapons load out may not be carried in some situations.

    Presumably, in marginal situations, if ye olde Apache and brand spanking new Apache were given the same notional sortie, the old-timer would have a couple of empty wing pylons, or be carrying an additional fuel tank, while the new chopper would have missiles/rockets on all stations.

    The power increase from earlier models would give a similar outcome for hot / high-altitude conditions.

  16. Think Ron5 means the minimum kit such as the windscreen wiper/washer swapout, flotation device, windscreen explosive charge change, etc. Though not sure even the UK implemented all of the recommendations (floats not fitted IIRC?), they did feed straight into the Guardian program however as El Sid infers

  17. Is there a need for a +8km (Hellfire range vs Brimstone) on an Apache? Hellfire has the advantage of having different types of warheads but the tread seems to be smaller-than-Hellfire guided missiles ie generate volumes for light targets.

  18. So that’s a no for the folding rotors etc. that were added to the UK Apaches for naval ops.

    The changed windscreen detonation charges (which I don’t think were fitted) sounded quite important. It’s been claimed the original fitting would have killed the crew if detonated underwater after a ditching.

  19. as slight thread drift I see that japan is in talks with AW (sorry Leonardo is an awful name and I refuse to use it) for another AW101’s

  20. Ron5, I don’t think anyone here is claiming what maritime modifications have been included with the E, beyond the radar software upgrade.

    Hohum mentioned performance and DAS, which are fairly general things. Much of the stuff considered by the British for shipborne operations is not headline grabbing material – things like potentially upgraded wipers, rotor brake, canopy jettison, and sealing will not necessarily excite defence journalists. Absence of specific details in Boeing press releases does not indicate the inclusion nor absence of particular aircraft features.

    The radar upgrade might suggest that other over-water tweeks and tinkering have been carried out by Boeing; but that isn’t your cue to flip-flop back to being surprised that all maritime mods have been included.

  21. Peter, the existing airframes can’t be knackered yet.

    The British plan from less than a year ago was for remanufacture to E standard, rather than for new airframes.

    The only thing that changed was Boeing’s offer to provide new aircraft at an unbeatable knock-down price.

  22. One suspects that the cost of completely stripping, NDE-ing, repairing and then rebuilding and re-outfitting those frames exceeds making them from scratch – a bit like ships.

    There’s also a potential issue in the airworthiness evidence chain…..

  23. @BB
    From 2019 remanufactured AH64D’s to AH64E or new build will have a maritime attack capability in the Step/Version 6 upgrade so ours being delivered after that will have it too. In terms of the airframes they are getting extra levels of corrossion protection learnt the hard way in the high salinity deserts of Iraq and the similar conditions in Afghanistan.
    Some AH64E’s were deployed to Afghanistan whose extra power and loitering threw off the Taliban who had become familiar with the endurance and performance of the D model. The Taliban new pretty exactly when a D could reach them from a specific FOB and how long on station it could wait. The E’s arrived faster and stayed longer pinning down the Taliban quicker and longer.

  24. @BB

    I was reacting to the smug claim that the dumb (implied) US Army had learned from those super smart (implied) Brits and had added all the British upgrades to US Apaches.

    I was pointing out a whole class of upgrades that were not i.e. the British folding rotors etc to enable UK Apaches to be operated off the likes of HMS Ocean. You guys call them minimal,. Clearly not minimal enough for UK to spent scarce resources on.

    As a complete off topic rant, I do wish a section of you Brits that believe in the “UK punches above their weight” crap and take delight in sniping at other militaries, really need to pipe down after Chilcot. Flyweights hit harder than flea weights but they’re still flies.

  25. @Stephen

    Are you sure the UK AH-64E’s will get the maritime targeting upgrade? I seem to remember that the UK will be refitting their old targeting system transferred from current aircraft.

  26. Hohum, the British plan from August 2015 (nb. AW are not “The Government of the United Kingdom”,

    “The Government of the United Kingdom has requested the remanufacture of fifty (50) United Kingdom (UK) WAH-64 Mk 1 Attack Helicopters to AH-64E Apache Guardian Helicopters”

    DSCA is a DoD agency.

    Ron5, the same link shows the list of sundry items included with the previously planned remanufacture of the British helicopters. The list includes the new Radar Electronics Unit that replaces a couple of avionics black boxes, and which are needed to facilitate the software upgrade for the increased maritime functions. The radar itself would have been refurbished and refitted, which might be what you’re thinking of. New-build AH-64E will have the necessary avionics as standard, and I think the existing radars are still being retained and refurbished.

    And I don’t think ‘dumb’ and ‘super smart’ were implied at all. You’re choosing to read combative statements into folks’ comments. It is a matter of fact that the UK upgraded its Apache at massive cost, and that the E model negates some of those bespoke improvements – probably most notably, the available power.

  27. unfortunately another force reduction from 67 to 50.

    It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had ordered 150 of these instead as initially they were touted at $20m each.

    Excellent assets that have been heavily utilised, surely we should be purchasing more not less.

  28. Boeing announced last week that the UK had sent a 448 million dollars order for 38 remanufactured Apache Guardians.

    Can’t find it on the US government website or the Boeing sites I saw it on last week.

    Has this been a change of heart, hidden in the General Ekectiion government news embargo ?

    Are we getting 38 refurbished and 12 New build now ?

  29. “Up to 50” = 38 (Taking into account presumably the fall in the pound against the dollar)

  30. Don’t know where to put this as I don’t have and do not want a Twitter account but all the shit being thrown out by Labour supporters and other Liberal gobshites about using the Military in support of the police has just been pissing me off all day.

    Tony Blair deployed the UK military to Heathrow (in light armoured vehicles armed with 30mm cannon no less) in 2003 and next to nothing was said.

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