The first two new Boeing Apache Attack Helicopters (AH-64E variant) have been delivered to the British Army from the US Government. A fleet of AH-64E Version 6 aircraft, the most advanced variant of Apache, have been procured from the United States to replace the Apache AH Mark 1, which reaches its Out of Service Date in 2024. The AgustaWestland Mark 1 (also written as “Apache AH1”) Apache is a licence-built version of the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter for the British Army Air Corps. They arrived at Wattisham Flying Station on 26 Nov 20 with Aviation Technicians from 7 Aviation Support Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (7 Avn Spt Bn REME), who will maintain and service the new aircraft. AH-64E will deliver a significant enhancement to the UK’s 1st Aviation Brigade.
Brigadier Steve Hussey, Head of Capability Air Manoeuvre, said: “While there is still some way to go before the Army’s modernised Attack Helicopter capability reaches full operational status, the arrival of the first Apache E Model in the UK is a major programme milestone that has been achieved despite the impact of COVID-19.”
Artificer Sergeant Major Brian Slinn, 7 Avn Spt Bn REME, said: “Bringing a new aircraft into service, especially one as impressive as the AH-64E is an exciting prospect that doesn’t happen every day. The REME personnel from 7 Bn and 3 Regt AAC understandably are chomping at the bit to finally get the process under way.”
These Boeing built new aircraft will enable the UK to maintain its battle-winning Attack Helicopter capability for decades to come thanks to its improved digital capability. The new aircraft is already in service with the US Army and other defence forces and has been designed and equipped to offer common configuration. This will include Quality Assurance and airworthiness tasks by 7 Bn, plus certification by the UK Military Aviation Authority, assurance of aircraft documentation, simulators, training and instructors. First UK flying is anticipated to commence in July 2021. Initially, this will be focussed 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).
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 with maritime mode will ensure the aircraft can operate in the maritime environment. Link 16, Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe and, in time, Manned-Unmanned Teaming bring theatre entry-standard equipment fits and vastly increase crew battle-space awareness. The UK has strived to make the aircraft best value for money by utilising a large amount of parts from the Apache Mark 1, which reduces production costs and aims to be more environmentally sustainable. Plus, the new aircraft will be easier to maintain and more reliable, so that it will be more straightforward to sustain in any operational environment.