The UK has commited to buying 50 new Apache AH-64E Guardian attack helicopters, but it hasn’t ordered them all yet.
A Minister and other officials have recently claimed that the UK has ordered all 50 new Apache helicopters, the UK has however only ordered 38 of them. We wouldn’t be the UK Defence Journal if we didn’t correct this claim, so let’s take a closer look at the issue.
What is the AH-6E and why is it different?
The AH-64E Guardian features improved digital connectivity, the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, more powerful T700-GE-701D engines with upgraded face gear transmission to accommodate more power, capability to control unmanned aerial vehicle, full IFR capability and improved landing gear.
The updated Longbow radar has an oversea capacity, potentially enabling naval strikes. The E model is fit for maritime operations, much like the British variant being replaced.
This article was written after an incorrect reply was given by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Stuart Andrew in a response to this question from Andrew Rosindell, the Member of Parliament for Romford:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when her Department plans to complete its order for all 50 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.”
Stuart Andrew responded:
“The order for all 50 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters was placed with the US Government in June 2016 and deliveries are planned to be complete by early 2024. The US Government manages the timing of subcontracts to support the required aircraft delivery schedule.”
No such order was placed, a commitment to 50 was made but only 38 were actually ordered at the time. In 2016, the following contract was announced by the US Department of Defence:
“The Boeing Company, Mesa, Arizona, was awarded a $410,916,893 modification (P00008) to foreign military sales (UK) contract W58RGZ-16-C-0023 for 38 Apache aircraft, three Longbow crew trainers, and associated spares. Work will be performed in Mesa, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2023. Fiscal 2010 other funds in the amount of $201,349,276 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.”
You’ll notice that only 38 aircraft were actually ordered.
Since then, the UK Defence Journal has been asking ‘Where are the last 12 (of 50) Apache helicopters?’.
Further to the above, at the end of last year Andrew (in response to a request for information from the chair of the Defence Select Committee) even points out that the remaining 12 have still to be ordered.
This letter is dated December 2018:
While the UK says it has committed to ordering them all, it’s late in doing so.
In July 2017, Harriett Baldwin, then Under Secretary of State for Defence Procurement said:
“The Ministry of Defence is buying 50 Apache AH-64E helicopters from the US Government under a Foreign Military Sales arrangement. The US has ordered the first 38 of the helicopters as part of its own larger purchase, under a multi-year contract with Boeing. This ensures we can take advantage of economies of scale and secure best value for the UK taxpayer, while procuring a vital capability for the UK. We expect the remaining 12 helicopters to be incorporated within the contract by the end of the year.“
That was said in 2017 and it’s now 2019, this has not happened.
A spokesman for the MoD also insisted that the UK will still order all 50 Apaches, to be delivered by 2025, and splitting the order “will secure the best value for money for the taxpayer as we secure a vital capability for the UK”.
This may be true in terms of value to the taxpayer (I’m not an economist, I don’t know), but the claim that all 50 have been ordered is not true and that claim is what this article was about.
Has the UK committed to ordering all 50? There’s no reason to doubt that claim. Has the UK ordered 50 Apache AH-64E helicopters? No it has not