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.