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UK receives first Apache helicopters in AH-64E configuration

Royal Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopter
Photo: Royal Army

The UK Royal Army has taken delivery of the first two Apache attack helicopters that are being delivered in the AH-64E configuration.

The UK is buying the most advanced variant of the Apache to replace the Apache AH Mark 1, which reaches its out of service date in 2024.

AH-64E is already in service with the US Army and is being acquired by other defense forces and has been designed and equipped to offer common configuration.

First UK flying is anticipated to start in July 2021, with an initial focus 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).

The newest variant of the helicopter has new engines, drivetrain, main rotor blades and avionics that will deliver a significant boost in aircraft performance. Embedded system-level diagnostics will increase aircraft availability, while an extended range Fire Control Radar with maritime mode will ensure the aircraft can operate in the maritime environment. The helicopter also introduces Link 16, Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe and has the capability to accommodate Manned-Unmanned Teaming.

An AH-64E being unloaded at Wattisham Flying Station on 26 Nov 20. Photo: Royal 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 Manoeuvre, said.

The Royal Army noted that it used a large amount of parts from the Apache Mark 1 to make the aircraft best value for money.

“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 UAS,” Maj Gen Jez Bennett, Director Capability, said.

Additional F-35B en route to the UK

Apache helicopters are not the only aircraft that will be arriving from the US to the UK this week. According to Allan Marshall, Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group, Royal Air Force, another three F-35B Lightning II aircraft have departed the Lockheed Martin factory and are expected to arrive in the UK over the coming days.

The latest delivery would bring the number of the short-takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force to 21.

The UK plans to buy 138 of the fifth-generation fighters for its air force and navy. More recent reports ahead of the country’s integrated defense review have suggested the UK defense ministry might halve the buy to only 70 F-35Bs. Some of the funds could be redirected to the development of the Tempest next generation combat aircraft.