The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has today announced a $2.3 billion deal to secure 50 of the latest generation Apache attack helicopters for the British Army.
The new fleet of Apaches are much more capable than their predecessors. Flown by Army Air Corps pilots from the Joint Helicopter Command, they will continue to give the British Army the edge over any future adversaries. The AH 64E model of the helicopter can also carry more weapons while being more fuel efficient, allowing it to operate in more demanding conditions for longer.
The new Apache AH-64E helicopters, built by Boeing and already in service with the US Army, are being purchased via a Foreign Military Sale with the United States Government.
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.”
Although being built in the US, the new Apaches will also 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.
The support and training arrangements for the new Apache AH-64E helicopters represent a further opportunity for UK suppliers. The proposed arrangements for these services will be finalised over the next year, with contracts being placed toward the end of the decade. It is envisaged that these future arrangements will support around 350 jobs, a comparable number to that required to support the existing Apache fleet.
Leonardo Helicopters (formerly AgustaWestland) will continue to lead the arrangements to support our existing Apache helicopters until they are retired from service in 2023/24.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon continued:
“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.”
Buying the AH-64E ‘off the shelf’ allows the MOD to take advantage of the US Government’s larger production programme in Mesa, Arizona, with the UK benefiting from economies of scale. To further guarantee value for money, 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.
Chief Executive Officer at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, Tony Douglas said:
“This is a momentous day for the UK Armed Forces, with these latest generation helicopters set to provide troops with a world-beating capability for decades to come.
“The MOD’s deal with the US brings UK benefits too; a range of UK companies are benefiting from working on the global Apache programme and the support and training arrangements of these new attack helicopters presents further exciting opportunities for UK industry.”
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”.
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 new helicopter’s improved computing capacity and updated sensors means the new fleet will also be receptive to upgrades in the future, ensuring it remains at the cutting-edge of technology.
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.