656 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps (4 Regt AAC) and their Apache helicopters are taking part in Exercise Clockwork at Bardufoss in Norway, say the British Army.

The Army say that the Apaches are flying alongside the Wildcat battlefield reconnaissance helicopters of the Commando Helicopter Force, learning how to operate together in some of the harshest weather conditions.

“Training in the Arctic builds on the Apache’s battle-winning abilities that have already been proved on combat operations in the maritime and desert environments.

A key role for 4 Regt AAC is to maintain a force of Apaches on standby to provide an aviation strike capability to the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade, the British military’s extreme cold weather warfare specialists.”

The UK currently operates a modified version of the Apache Longbow; the Apache AH1. Westland built 67 WAH-64 Apaches under license from Boeing, following a competition between the Eurocopter Tiger and the Apache for the British Army’s new Attack Helicopter in 1995.

Important deviations made by AgustaWestland from the US Apache variants include changing to more powerful Rolls-Royce engines, and the addition of a folding blade assembly for use on naval ships.

In 2016, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed a US Foreign Military Sale worth $2.3 billion for 50 AH-64Es to be built in Mesa, Arizona. Leonardo Helicopters in the UK is to maintain the current fleet of Apaches until 2023–2024, with a long-term plan for Leonardo and other UK companies to “do most of the work” on the new fleet.

The deal includes an initial support contract for maintenance of the new helicopters, along with spare parts and training simulators for UK pilots. 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.

24 COMMENTS

  1. If we do see any budget increase, another 30 or so of these would be near the top of my list of priorities. As would a good number extra Merlin and a few wildcat. Helos are vital for so many critical things.

  2. Absolutely TS, they are a great price too now we are taking standard US Army spec lots from the production line.

    I would be tempted to add 30 for the scout role too and transfer all the Wildcats to the Navy, add a dipping sonar to all of them and get and buy 10 Type 31’s …. and bobs your uncle!

    If the Army need some light transport helos, buy some Lakotas in the same way, straight off the US Army production line.

    • I’m with T.S on this. Wildcats. We already have the training programmes and supply chain in place plus would hesitate to buy from abroad until we know how brexit pans out and what effect it has on currency rates.

      • If i understand correctly the Wildcat is kinda pricey compared to Apache, and so with the UK defence budget a complete mess it is better to piggy back on the economy of scale that the US creates, than pay over the odds for UK produced items.

    • John,

      Forget Apache for the scout/recce role, the US Army is replacing them in that role by a new recce helo that is smaller, faster, cheaper and more nimble. Using Apaches as scouts is overkill, we don’t have enough of them to do the attack role, shouldn’t spread them even thinner. Wildcat is fine for the armed recce role, a bit on the large side for sure but a good machine that does the job.

      • Yes I have read that. Cuts, cuts and more Cuts. I wonder If we’re struggling to find enough Pilots with Independently moving Eyes !

        • The Government said we were going to refurbish 50 of the 67, but has only placed orders for I think from memory 38 so far. It is strange, as Boeing are offering these VERY cheaply, as they’re part of a big refurb order for the US Army which we are getting to piggyback on.

          We have nothing like the number of Apaches we need and should be refurbing all 67 of them. It is instructive comparing our set-up with the US Army; they are the main practitioners and experts in battlefield helis.

          Every US Army division has an attached Aviation Brigade of 13 flying companies (squadrons in RAF parlance). 3 of these are Apache in the attack role, each with IIRC 10 frontline aircraft, so 17 per company, 51 per division.

          With 6 planned UK brigades, we’d need 102 Apaches to do the job. 50 is just too thin by half and shows the capability gap repeated across UK defence. The USA can mobilise all 10 regular and as many again reserve divisions and they will all have their full complement of Apaches, recce helis, heavy lift, assault, medivac, command and EW machines.

          We only have enough Apaches to support 3 of our 6 brigades – probably only 2 if 8 Apaches are to be available to the carrier, and none in the store to support any adaptable force bdes – and even fewer Wildcats, because the plan is that we never deploy more than 3 at once. Which would be a pretty tiny force if push came to shove anywhere like eastern Europe or further afield. Our Yank allies must despair at the puny contribution we now offer across all 3 services.

          We are good at talking above our weight, alas not so much at punching.

          • Not sure of the facts and figures here but, What Is the Difference in cost between New Builds and Re Manufactured ? Didn’t the MOD/Government decide on the Boeing Offering because the Leonardo one was Twice the Price ? Would It not have been better to just buy 50 New Builds from Boeing and Send the Originals to Phoenix for Storage, Just in case we might need them In the Future ?

            It’s not like they are actually that Old after all.

  3. Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if the V-22 Osprey was/is considered for use by the RAF or FAA? If it was, and rejected, what would have been the reasons for the rejection?

    I am asking because the Osprey does seem like a good fit especially with the QE class carriers coming into service. It can serve as a CODs, AEW, and a troop transport platform. From what I understand, the lifts on the new carriers are able to accommodate the Osprey.

    Any Opinions?

  4. Are we buying them and then giving them an upgrade… folding blades, more power again?
    We certainly need to buy more

    John Clarke, why buy Lakota, when we can have extra LYNX Wildcat for the role ;P

  5. My brother’s son in law flies them. Average flying time two hours per week! In order to get 8 aircraft airborne for the centenary flypast, it took 4 aircraft from two different units around the UK.

    Speaks volumes about the state of our armed forces these days!

  6. Regarding the remanufacturing of the old AH64. They are re using various components from our old D models in the production of our new E models.

    I do like the Wildcat, but to me it’s natural environment is as a Naval Helicopter.

    for the life of me, I just don’t see how it fits the scout role, with no means of defending itself, bar door gunners?

    Is it equipped with advanced sensors to locate enemy positions and armour, I thought the Army variant was delivered with a fairly basic avionic fit?

    If it hasn’t, does scouting mean flying around at altitude getting shot at and hoping for the best?

    The only way of surviving against a peer enemy would be high speed, low level flying … You won’t see anything!

    I must be missing something here, what can a Wildcat see that an AH64E, with its advanced sensors ( and future UAV control capability) can’t?

    I appreciate it’s nimble …. It will need to be!

    I would stick to a fleet of 80 AH64E’s, larger Squdrons to carry out their own scouting.

  7. Not sure of precise numbers needed but 39 is way too low a number 54 proposed is also too low. 67 was barely meeting requirements and the Apache D’s got beasted by constant demands in Afghan and Iraq. Thus I would think a total of at least 84 if not 108 would be a superior number- these helicopters deliver huge firepower and survivability to the battlefield and are really our best weapon against a numerically superior enemy on the battlefield. If Russia actually decided to risk a short sharp conflict with NATO or part of NATO a great deal of the anti tank, anti personnel, anti vehicle demands will fall on attack helicopters.
    These aircraft are a bargain and we should be investing heavily in their capabilities.

  8. Sadly the RM have a squadron which should be equipped with Apache carrying out this role in support of the RM.

    847 NAS.

    Instead that squadron shares a pool of 34 Wildcat with the squadrons of 1 Regiment AAC, and the army is stretched further using scarce assets.

    One Apache regiment at readiness also supports UKSF, 16AA, as well as 3 Cdo.

    More Apache needed with some given to 847 so the RM can have a dedicated unit for them.

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