The first two remanufactured AH-64E Apache attack helicopters have been delivered to the British Army by the U.S. Government, the service said in a statement.
The helicopters arrived at Wattisham Flying Station on Nov. 26 with Aviation Technicians from 7 Aviation Support Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (7 Avn Spt Bn REME), who will maintain and service the helicopter.
British Army contracted for remanufactured AH-64E Version 6 aircraft, the most advanced variant of Apache, from the United States to replace the Apache AH Mark 1, which reaches its Out of Service Date in 2024. The WAH-64D Apache AH1 is a license-built version of the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter manufactured by AgustaWestland (now Leonardo).
The new AH-64Es will enable the UK to maintain its attack helicopter capability for decades to come thanks to its improved digital capability. The new aircraft is already in service with the U.S. Army and other defence forces and has been designed and equipped to offer common configuration.
First UK flying is anticipated to commence in July 2021. Initially, this will be focused on trials activity and then on developing instructional techniques to safely manage aircrew transition from Mark 1 to E-model. The focus will then change to the full rate conversion training of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (3AAC).
Prior to commencement of flying, the full Air System Safety Case will be rigorously tested to ensure it can support safe flying. This will include Quality Assurance and airworthiness tasks by 7 Bn, plus certification by the UK Military Aviation Authority (MAA), assurance of aircraft documentation, simulators, training and instructors.
AH-64E will deliver a significant enhancement to the UK’s 1st Aviation Brigade. New engines, drivetrain, main rotor blades and avionics will deliver a significant boost in aircraft performance. Embedded system-level diagnostics will increase aircraft availability. Extended range Fire Control Radar (FCR) with maritime mode will ensure the aircraft can operate in the maritime environment. Link 16, Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) and, in time, Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT) bring theatre entry-standard equipment fits and vastly increase crew battle-space awareness.
In August 2015, the U.S. State Department approved the UK’s request to remanufacture its fleet of 50 Apache AH1 helicopters into the AH-64E Äpache “Guardian” standard. In July 2016, the UK Ministry of Defence has announced a $2.3 billion deal to secure 50 of the latest generation Apache attack helicopters for the British Army.
An initial contract, worth $488.1 million, for the re-manufacturing of 38 British Army AH-64s into the AH-64E standard was awarded to Boeing in May 2017. A further contract was announced in December 2019. Another contract, worth around $192 million, in support of the British Army AH-64E Apaches was awarded earlier this year.
AH-64E Apache Guardian
The AH-64E Guardian, formerly known as AH-64D Block III, is the latest variant of the AH-64 Apache four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter developed by the American company, Boeing. Apache is considered as one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter.
Compared to the earlier versions, the AH-64E features improved digital connectivity, the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTDS), more powerful T700-GE-701D turboshaft engines with upgraded face gear transmission to accommodate more power, the capability to control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), full Instrument flight rules (IFR) capability, and improved landing gear.
The Apache Guardian is armed with an M230 30mm automatic chain gun carried between the forward-positioned main landing gears. It has four hardpoints mounted on stub-wing pylons, capable of carrying a mixture of Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles (AGM), Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) II guided rocket pods, 2.75 in. Hydra rocket pods and FIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles (AAM).
The helicopter features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems and can also be equipped with the AN/APG-78 Longbow millimeter-wave fire-control radar (FCR), housed in a dome located above the main rotor.
Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches, across the variants, to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production with the primary customer being the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army Apache fleet has accumulated (as of July 2016) more than 4.2 million flight hours since the first AH-64A was delivered to the U.S. Army in January 1984.