The British Army has just received its first AH-64E Apache ‘Guardian’ helicopter gunships and would start the replacement of the legacy Apache airframes, which would retire by 2023-2024.
This finally sets off the long-awaited modernization program for the nation’s military, which is now at an all-time low. The first two AH-64Es were flown to the United Kingdom via a Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airlifter and transported by road to Wattisham Flying Station, Suffolk, Eastern England on Thursday.
These would be used by the British Army Aviation Corps. About 50 helicopters would arrive to replace the older fleet.
Currently, the Army flies license-built modified AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter gunships (known as WAH-64D or AH-1 in British service) whose first regiment achieved operational status in 2005 as the service’s primary tactical attack helicopter. The British Apaches have had their fair share of operational deployment and proven themselves in combat in Afghanistan and Libya.
“The arrival of the first Apache E-model attack helicopter to be delivered to the British Army over the next two years marks the beginning of a significant uplift in capability to enhance the Army’s contribution across the spectrum of military operations,” said Major General Jez Bennett, the British Army’s Director of Capability.
In 2017, the service signed an agreement with Boeing to remanufacture 38 of its existing AH-64D variants to the AH-64E standard as part of a wider lot 7-11 production run, as well as procure 3 Longbow crew trainers and associated spares for a cost of around $488 million.
An additional contract was signed in December 2019, for 12 more units.
The AH-64E ‘Guardian’
Continuing with the Apache lineage, Boeing unveiled the new variant AH-64E with significant improvements over its predecessors in 2012, which was earlier named as AH-64D Block-III. It was redesignated as ‘Guardian’, swaying away from ‘Apache’ namesake, to represent the increased capabilities of the aircraft.
It features improved digital connectivity, more powerful engines with upgraded face gear transmission to accommodate more power, the capability to operate UAVs, improved landing gear, and even new composite rotor blades which enhance the cruise speed, rate of climb, and payload capacity.
Its radar-mounted versions also sported new and enhanced Longbow radars, with increased maritime capabilities- a reason holding much significance especially for the British, who aim to arm the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
Notably, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army are also among the recent customers of the aircraft and are also deployed during the recent standoff against Chinese PLA forces in Eastern Ladakh, following a skirmish in June which resulted in the death of 20 Indian and unconfirmed number of Chinese troops.