The British Army received its first two Boeing [BA] Apache AH-64E helicopters from the U.S. government on Nov. 26. The $2.3 billion deal was announced by the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Ministry of Defense in July 2016 and includes a total of 50 Apache attack helicopters, which will be replacing the Apache AH Mark 1 helicopters retiring in 2024.
The Apache Attack helicopters were delivered to Wattisham Flying Station and will be maintained and serviced by the 7 Aviation Support Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (7 Avn Spt Bn REME), according to a press release from the Army.
“While there is still some way to go before the Army’s modernized Attack Helicopter capability reaches full operational status, the arrival of the first Apache E Model in the UK is a major program milestone that has been achieved despite the impact of COVID-19,” Brigadier Steve Hussey, Head of Capability Air Maneuver, said in a press statement.
The Apache AH-64E’s will be equipped with Modernized Day-Side Assembly (M-DSA) to improve their ability to find and distinguish targets in full color and Fire Control Radar (FCR) software and targeting modes to increase range performance and utility in the Maritime domain and assist in counter unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) detection, according to a spokesperson from the Army. They will also use Link-16 and Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT) to increase situational awareness on the battlefield, enhance interoperability, and extend the Apache’s range.
“The arrival of the first Apache E Model Attack Helicopter to be delivered to the British Army over the next two years marks the beginning of a significant uplift in capability to enhance the Army’s contribution across the spectrum of military operations,” Maj Gen Jez Bennett, Director Capability, said in a press statement. “From supporting hostage rescue missions, to countering an adversaries’ anti-access, area denial platforms, the Apache E outstrips the outgoing Mark 1 aircraft by increased platform digitalization, improved weapons and avionics, and the ability to use the latest and future technology to enable teaming with semi-autonomous systems such as UASs.”
The British Army will also use System Level Embedded Diagnostics (SLED) to increase aircraft availability, improve engineering support, and reduce downtime, according to a spokesperson.
The Apache AH-64E will fly for the first time in the U.K. in July 2021 and will focus on trial activity and developing techniques to transition from the Mark 1 to E-model before full-rate conversion training, according to the release.
“Bringing a new aircraft into service, especially one as impressive as the AH-64E is an exciting prospect that doesn’t happen every day,” Artificer Sergeant Major Brian Slinn, 7 Avn Spt Bn REME, said in a press statement. “The REME personnel from 7 Bn and 3 Regt AAC [3 Regiment Army Air Corps] understandably are chomping at the bit to finally get the process underway.”
The full Air System Safety Case will be tested before the Apache AH-64E’s first flight and will include quality assurance and airworthiness tasks by the 7 Bn, certification by the U.K. Military Aviation Authority, and assurance of aircraft documentation, simulators, training, and instructors, according to the release.
“As the Aviation Brigade grows towards its own Full Operating Capability in 2023, AH-64E will team with Wildcat and provide the backbone of its capability,” Brigadier Paul Tedman CBE, Commander 1 Aviation Brigade, said. “The next few years represent hugely exciting times for the Joint Helicopter Command and the Brigade.”