The Military Army Blog

Meet The British Army’s New Apache

The Ministry of Defence has announced a 1.8 billion deal to buy 50 of the latest generation Apache attack helicopters for the British Army. The new Apache AH-64E helicopters, built by Boeing and already in service with the US Army, can carry more weapons and also boast greater fuel efficiency, allowing them to operate in more demanding conditions for longer. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

“This deal will give the British Army an outstanding helicopter at good value for money for the UK taxpayer. It is part of our plan for more ships, more aircraft, more troops available at readiness, better equipment for Special Forces, more being spent on cyber.”

“That plan, backed by a rising defence budget will enable us to deal with the increased threats to our country.”

When details of the deal became known earlier this year, there was criticism of the decision to buy the new helicopters from the US government rather than produce them in the UK, with fears that the move could put the future of 600 aeronautical jobs in the UK at risk.

Italian aerospace manufacturer Leonardo, which was known as Finmeccanica until recently, had been fighting to land the deal, which would have seen the new helicopters built at its base in Yeovil, Somerset, where 3,700 staff are employed.

Meet The British Army's New Apache

The original fleet of 67 British Apaches, produced by Westland, now part of Leonardo, cost around 44 million per helicopter, whilst the new versions are reportedly to be acquired at a knockdown price of 8.5million per helicopter.

Boeing offered the new helicopters at the much lower price by tacking them on the end of a larger Apache order for the US military.

The MoD say, however, that the new Apaches will bring benefits to the UK, with companies in Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Bedfordshire, Cheshire and Gwent being awarded subcontracts by Boeing that collectively represent around 5% of the global Apache supply chain.

Meet The British Army's New Apache

It added that UK suppliers could benefit from support and training contracts for the new Apache AH-64E helicopters, which will be finalised over the next year.

Leonardo will continue to lead the arrangements to support the existing Apache helicopters until they are retired from service in 2023/24, and it’s thought the MoD will hand the business support contracts for the new Apaches, although the manufacturer is believed to have enough work to support its Yeovil staff until 2018 without winning further orders.

One defence source told the Daily Telegraph:

“Despite concerns about the loss of expertise from not producing the Apaches, servicing them may even work out better for Yeovil. Buying the Apaches will be about 30pc of the total price, with the balance coming from supporting them during their 25-year service lives.”

Last year, meanwhile, Lieutenant General Gary Coward, a former head of the Joint Helicopter Command, said buying from Boeing was “the only sensible option”. Mr Fallon said:

“In the longer term, I want these new Apaches to be maintained in the UK, and for UK companies to do most of the work. This includes Leonardo Helicopters, who have developed substantial knowledge and experience in the support of our current Apache fleet over the last decade and will continue to support the helicopters until their eventual retirement in around eight years’ time.”

The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, said:

“The new Apache fleet will provide the British Army with a highly potent fighting element of its Future Force 2025.

“The Apache has already proved its worth on operations in Libya and Afghanistan, supporting UK and coalition troops, and this new model will give our pilots an attack helicopter that is faster, more responsive and more capable. These improvements will give us the edge on operations as we work to protect the UK and our interests both at home and abroad.”

Systems from the current Apache fleet, such as the Modernised Target Acquisition & Designation System, and the Longbow Fire Control Radar, will be reused and incorporated into the new helicopters where possible. The deal with the US government includes an initial support contract for maintenance of the new helicopters, along with spare parts and training simulators for UK pilots.

The MoD also says the new helicopter’s improved computing capacity and updated sensors means it will be receptive to upgrades in the future.

The first UK helicopters are due off the US production line in early 2020 and will begin entering service with the British Army in 2022, being flown by Army Air Corps pilots from the Joint Helicopter Command.

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