£3bn Apache helicopter upgrade deal ‘approved’ by US govt

A U.S. Apache helicopter © Stringer
Helicopters from the UK’s partially-mothballed Apache attack fleet will be upgraded after the US government approved a £3 billion deal.

The deal will have geopolitical consequences and make the world a safer place, according to America’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which works alongside international allies.

In a statement on its website on Thursday, the DSCA said the arrangement would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress around the world.

The agency also sketched out how the upgraded helicopter would be used.

The United Kingdom will use the Apache helicopters to conduct various missions, including counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations,” it claimed.

The materiel and services under this program will enable the United Kingdom to become a more capable defensive force and will also provide key elements required for interoperability with US forces.

The aircraft will be equipped with better engines, targeting technology and sensors – a process which will update 50 of them from the current Apache WAH-64 Mk I helicopters into the more advanced AH-64E Guardian versions.

In March, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted that a quarter of the UK’s hugely expensive Apache attack helicopter fleet would be mothballed with 16 of Britain’s remaining 66 Augusta Westland AH-64 Apache Longbow aircraft put into storage and used for spare parts.

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and 2012 Planning Round identified the need to adjust the Apache aircraft numbers in line with the drawdown of operations in Afghanistan,” An MoD spokesman confirmed to IHS Jane’s at the time.

With the end of combat operations, the fleet was adjusted to 50 in January 2015,” they added.

READ MORE: Heli-flop-ter: Britain mothballs costly Apache helicopters after brief Afghan, Libyan service

The Apache was first used by the UK in operations in Afghanistan in 2006.

It also saw combat in Libya in 2011, where it was flown from the decks of Royal Navy ships during the NATO-led operation which culminated in the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.