Leonardo Helicopters has been awarded a $377 million contract by the U.K. government to maintain its fleet of AH MK1 Apache gunships until they are removed from service in 2024.
Defense Minister Stuart Andrew announced the £293 million ($377 million) contract with Leonardo Helicopters during a visit to the company’s site in Yeovil, where some of the work on the aircraft will take place. Under the Apache AH MK1 Integrated Operational Support (IOS) contract, Leonardo will maintain the legacy fleet until its out of service date in March 2024.
The U.K. is incrementally replacing the Apache MK1 with the Boeing AH-64E, which will enter service with the Britich army beginning in 2022.
E-model aircraft, the configuration to which all U.S. Apaches are being upgraded, has improved sensors, avionics and performance over earlier variants of the attack helicopter.
“The Apache has provided years of crucial battlefield support to UK and coalition troops in operations in Libya and Afghanistan,” Andrew said during the contract announcement. “This multi-million-pound contract will ensure our armed forces continue to benefit from this vital capability as we integrate the latest Apache model into service in 2022.”
The IOS contract includes deep maintenance, repair and overhaul of the MK1 aircraft as well as technical and spares support from Leonardo. The contract includes three work periods, with the latest investment covering the final five years of the fleet’s operational life.
The contract also provides more U.K. government investment in Leonardo’s Yeovil site, which last May delivered the first Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations.
Merlin production is ongoing under a £388 million ($499 million) contract that supports 175 skilled jobs in Yeovil and another 500 across the U.K. supply chain, according to the Ministry of Defense. Leonardo also holds a £271 million ($348 million) AW139 Wildcat support and training contract, which supports 500 jobs in Yeovil.
“This latest multi-million-pound investment in the existing Apache fleet not only demonstrates our positive collaboration with industry in achieving value for money, but also ensures that these battle-proven helicopters remain in-service and readily available for the British Army until their out of service date,” said Graham Russell, director of helicopters at Defense Equipment and Support, the U.K.’s defense procurement agency.