Apache and Wildcat helicopters are taking part in Exercise Talon Python.

In a news release, the MoD say that the two-week Exercise will see 3 Regiment Army Air Corps launch formations of up to four Apaches and two Wildcats from their base at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk on simulated missions to find and strike targets.

3 Regt AACOs Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Nick English said:

“This is the culmination of a steady progression of training. It will test the skills of both air and ground crew, our logistic skills, mission planning and communications.”

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The British Army say on their website:

“The Apache Attack Helicopter can operate in all weathers, day or night and detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds. It can deliver hard-hitting and effective support to ground forces during battle. It can also carry out reconnaissance. From high above the action, it can observe enemy forces and pass information to troops on the ground.

The Wildcat can provide a range of tasks including reconnaissance and transportation of troops. During the exercise it will be providing force protection on the Exercise. The groundcrew will include Petroleum Specialists, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Communication Specialists. The soldiers will need to conduct a site survey analysis, study the wind direction at the location, complete routine fuel testing and calculate expected resupply.”

27 COMMENTS

  1. 38 Apache, meant to be 50, down from 67.

    34 Wildcat.

    That is the reality.

    Totally ridiculous numbers no matter how good they are.

    I’d have preferred a decent number of Blackhawk for the Army myself.

    • Wildcat is a brilliant aircraft, but as a replacement for Gazelle in an observation and light attack role. However, you are right in saying that we simply need greater numbers and that a aircraft like blackhawk, which could actually carry a meaningful amount of troops is needed.

      • It was only ordered to maintain jobs which I’m not sure provided value for money as most of them have probably been axed now on completion of the contract. The exports don’t appear to be coming in and there is much more competition compared to what the original lynx faced. I’m not sure how the UK was frozen out of the NH90 unless they thought it was too similar to the Merlin, but some of the new coaxial designs being proposed by Boeing and LM look like they will change the game in the very near future when the price comes down through EOS.

        • My belief is The navy needed wildcat but not enough numbers to make affordable on own. The army got a useful aircraft for relatively low price given the non recurring cost was shared with navy….

          Axing wildcat would not have enabled blackhawk or nh90 or any other lift platform.

    • Fingers crosed for the remainig 12 mate, and yes the wildcat is an excellent little motor, ideal in its intended role but as usual we lack depth, and we only need to lose a small number to enemy action, accidents etc to pretty much become incapable of any sort of sustained action. Problem being is bringing in a new aircraft type is against current policy of reducing types for greater commonality. Remember the RAF have the support helos, we have the attack and recce. The RAF would never allow the army to run any support helos, as the Blackhawk is a medium support. The RAF have the Puma which is an excellent aircraft, now upgraded, but let’s see how long that little bugger lasts now the order for another 16 Chinook has been made. They are supposedly to “replace” older airframe but knowing the MOD and Government it’s a nice little excuse to bin the Puma. Anyway, once again I am going off subject lol.

      • Do you know if it is possible to build more Wildcats with an extended fuselage to carry say 8 men as opposed to 4? So as to keep commonality.

    • Everyone wanted Blackhawks but the raf started crying about medium lift, as has been mentioned on here countless times. So the army and 16AA shit out.

  2. What concerns me is the 8-bit nature (256) of the Apache. Shows just how far behind the curve defence technology actually is 🙂

  3. I would like to see a smallish number of nh90 or potentially a similar Agusta Westland type to be procured to provide a proper utility capability. The wildcat for me should have a bigger investment in terms of a roof/rotor mounted radar and optics as the nose mounted optics could potentially expose it to air defences. Otherwise you might as well just us the Apache as a reconnaissance asset I would like the capability to look like an airborne version of Ajax there are requirements for coordination of uavs, Apache, jtacs etc. It should be equipped to tackle targets of opportunity LMM and spike would seem to be a good option and potentially complimentary to Apache weapons fit. The problem with nh90 and Blackhawks is I believe that the raf seem to feel they are aircraft of size that go beyond the army’s remit they would give a capability similar to puma. I can see that it is a grey area, however the raf continues down the chinook route which is not always the most appropriate aircraft for the mission. Maybe this needs examining and pumas transfer to the army?

  4. All Wildcat should go to the RN and the Army should concentrate on a far larger Apache force(at an amazing price tbh), Merlin and Chinook.

    We need fewer types but more of, in the right place and ultimately we need a helicopter force of circa 600 airframes. Not going to happen, but that’s what we need in reality

  5. Have to agree to most of that, but there is a need for a smaller utility helicopter, Apache can’t do somethings/everything, but I feel wildcat in it’s current form and it’s cost adds very little to the army to me.

    You’re right that the wildcat ideally should be reinvested in and changed to a naval aircraft and you only have to look the 2 types the Rn version is tooled up, has a focused role that it is ultimately designed for and investment was there for weapons etc, this shows the purchase was really navy led.

    The army version looks like as little as they could get away with and not an aircraft the army wanted, if the army had to have them then they needed to be useful (as you say we could have spent money on apaches instead) if given as much investment as the navy version the Wildcat would add value and make up in some part not having enough apaches, but then Apaches are more capable in the recce role so really the navy conversion would still be a better use of the airframe.

    But I can’t see at the moment extra investment being made either in converting wildcat to a fully capable recce version or converting the land version to increase the naval force.

    The army I believe wanted Blackhawks/nh90 types in the utility role, but I don’t think the raf wanted them to have such a capable aircraft, wildcat was possibly wanted in the recce role, but it seems the whole battlefield recce helicopter and battlefield light utility programmes were fudged and underfunded. The army therefore got an airframe for recce without the equipment required to Carry out the role and this unsuitable airframe was then shoved into a utility role it isn’t really strong at. Basically they were done by political motivation an£ lack of finance.

    What is concerning now is that the army doesn’t want a chinook every time for battlefield support, casevac etc, the wildcat is not really big enough – you look at the incident where troops were stuck in a minefield in Afghan and eventually had to be rescued by a us blackhawk. The raf seems to be heading to an all chinook force, with merlins now part of the commando helicopter force. Something needs to ironed out, if the puma force goes then there is potential that the army won’t have access to a suitable asset it needs it some scenarios.

  6. We certainly lack depth, no question there.
    Here’s the thing, though the Wildcat will mature into an excellent, class leading maritime helicopter, like it’s Lynx ancestor, I just can’t see it’s Army role.

    it’s neather fish nor foul and doesn’t really fit in….

  7. buy up lots of Apache 64A to augment the 64E fleet and a number of WHL119 Power as a utility aircraft. Transfer the wildcat to the RN (and fit a much needed datalink) RAF insist on Chinooks even if they are unsuitable in many situations

  8. Morning all
    The challenge of numbers and aircraft types rear themselves again.
    Currently HMG have a wide and diverged fleet of helicopters, frames and types on a variety of support contracts over a variety of years.
    Some of this is political, support contracts to UK based companies and some of it late decision making (Chinook and Puma). Adding in the financial constraints (Merlin HC.3 transfer to CHF) you can see that UK rotary lift is a bit disjointed at the moment.
    What we should have and what we have needs to be pushed to one side and what we could have needs to be placed into focus. HMG have to balance requirements of the military against the financial and political limitations placed upon it.
    The military will never truly get what they want, they may get close to what they need but they are only one part of the decision making process – sounds odd but you only have to look at the platforms used today in the roles they are used to realise that trade offs are made.
    What masks these trade offs is the services ability to adapt and overcome.
    It will be interesting to see what MDP comes up with, what role industry and politics plays in deciding what the military get to enable them to achieve the mission.

    • Gents – genuine question here, not intended as an inter-service jab. Is there a specific reason that helicopters need to be tri-service? I’d have thought it would make sense that ALL non-naval choppers were operated either by the Army or the RAF raher than the ‘pick and mix’ solution we have at present. Happy to be corrected, as I am no aviator.

  9. Personally I think the Merlin is an amazing helicopter and a world beater and chinook is also great.

    Wildcat is with us and we need to move it on, but realistically I dont see it being replaced, other than by Merlin, which bizzarely costs less.

    Apache should be the recce, mech in close air support asset and that’s about it.

    If we want tilt rotors, I guess we need one that can replace Merlin in the future, as for Puma, great workhorse but its time has come and it also needs to be replaced by Merlin.

    We are certainly not in a bad position in rotary, we just need more apaches and Merlins imho.

    Future wise I see some drones taking off from the top of Boxers providing situational awareness – so the recce role is one that will be UAV led I believe.

  10. I agree Pacman.

    The Merlin is a superb asset and I would love to see more in UK service.

    The Wildcat was a political solution to the AAC requirements. The AAC would be better off purchasing additional Apaches for the recce role.

    it seems to me anyway, in a shooting war with a peer enemy, I wouldn’t want to be flying around in a Wildcat looking for the enemy.

    I would rather have an Apache wrapped around me!

    The Wildcat would be superb for insertion and extraction of Special forces teams, small, tough and very agile Indeed.

    However, It makes for an extremely expensive general battlefield taxi.

    • At least they are not flying Gazelle. 1, 3 and 4 Regiments AAC were equipped with those in BAOR used for recc of GSFG advance in event of an attack.

        • Ouch. And the Lynx could not hide behind Trees either to launch TOW, unlike last mounted sensors on Apache.

          The capabilities as always have quadrupled with Longbow on Apache and the Wildcats sensors but numbers have dropped through the floor.

  11. Apache is by far the best product for the scouting mission and Merlin Can do the battlefield taxi better than a wildcat, so realistically whilst it is undeniably an amazing platform, the UK does not need it.

    A much larger Apache, Merlin Force would be far more productive and as you all know I would buy more apaches over new tanks if that is what needs to happen ( I would like both, but know which one offers better battlefield VFM).

    Think its time the current wildcat force were sent to the RN so that at least we have a standard platform for the RN and then replace the army ones with new Apaches.

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