The new AH-64E Apache helicopters being delivered for the British Army will be equipped with Lockheed Martin-built Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGM) as their main weapon, the country’s defense minister Jeremy Quinn confirmed on June 7.
In addition to JAGM, the Hellfire K1 and Hellfire Romeo missiles will also be fully qualified and integrated onto the aircraft, defense minister Quinn added.
The ministry’s decision to go for JAGM, which is already integrated with the helicopter, and not for the Brimstone missile built at MBDA’s UK plant sparked criticism from UK defense experts for opting for a missile made in the US, and not one made in the UK.
It should be noted that MBDA and Boeing completed a series of trials and firings of Brimstone on the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter in 2016, with the aim of confirming the feasibility of integrating the missile with the Apache AH-64E fleet. Back then, it was estimated that the integration would be a “low-risk” undertaking.
The British Army received the first of the 50 new Apache helicopters in late 2020. The new variants, which will replace the older AH-64D versions, are due in service in 2022.
Commentators have also pointed out that the decision was likely a financial one, as the integration of the Brimstone missile would have required more work and funds than the option of “stock” JAGMs. What is more, JAGM is also integrated with helicopter simulators and mission planning systems.
The UK is already using Brimstone on its Typhoon fighter jets and plans to equip its new Protector remotely piloted aircraft systems with the missile.