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

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would be great if we could carry apaches on QE that can carry anti ship/ submarine missiles, maybe apaches a bit small though and we have other helicopters, but a naval strike Apache is a great asset even just for its gun, A wildcat with similar gun would rock, am I right in thinking the Apache has the same size 30mm gun as our New 2000t OPVS?


Cam, In theory it could, and by that I mean the aircraft has the power to lift the weight of anti-ship missile. eg. air launched Harpoon weighs 520kg and a Hellfire is about 50kg of which Apache can carry x 16 in a tank busting configuration so that’s 800Kg capacity. So you are limited to one perhaps two at a pinch (no cannon ammo etc) The question is can a single hardpoint on the stub wings carry that weight and how will all that weight on one point affect the aircraft centre of gravity and handling. Then we have the… Read more »


Was talking to Rudeboy about this the other day- there is currently no cross-compatibility between the missiles and rockets that the Apache is fitted with and those that Wildcat/Merlin will have in Navy service. Even though Apache is marked as having a maritime role in the HMSQE amphibious assault game plan. For any number of reasons, that’s poor planning and use of resources- there could be huge savings in training and commonality of maintenance and storage. He did point out this may be to maintain justification for Apache, so there is that. I’d still like to see Apache and Wildcat… Read more »


Interesting, Cheers joe


Well, I’m just passing on Rudeboy’s information to be honest, but it’s certainly an interesting opportunity for the RN and AAC!

Barry Larking

“This article was written after an incorrect reply was given by the current Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Stuart Andrew …”

Brexit has fogged everyone in the government’s minds. More time has gone into evading or securing the outcome of the vote in 2016 than in running the U.K. effectively. More time has been spent jockeying for power or seeing which way to jump for one’s political career than concentrating on the U.K.’s security. Backslapping and or stabbing beats doing what they were elected to do. This is the worse Parliament I can recall in a long life.


You don’t recall the Heath, Wilson or Callaghan administrations then?… not forgetting ‘Dodgy Tony’

Barry Larking

A cousin trialled the EN Mk 1 assault rifle, recently described as the ‘best Cold War Rifle we never had’ on an American website. Adopted by Attlee, cancelled by Churchill in 1952. I also recall Sandys 1957 Defence White Paper that cancelled all military aircraft projects! Alan Clark, definitely right wing and military minded seemingly like Callaghan, ex-RN, but thought he was ‘a maritimist’ – someone who wanted to project sea power above all. Like me.


Well Barry, then you’ll know that this administration hasn’t lead us to 3 day working week due to power cuts (Heath), getting a bail out from the IMF (Wilson), or unburied bodies due to strikes (Callaghan).
And of course Tony and his war in Iraq over fictional WMDs…
So bad as the current lot are, there has been worse…

And god help us if Corbyn’s Marxists ever make it to power!!!


Why do people do this, so because it’s been bad before we are not allowed to criticise? What kind of outlook in life is that? Oh my team are 4th bottom of the league, but remember guys we got relegated 40 years ago so at least it’s not as bad as that, let’s not say anything bad about our players and manager. We are talking about the here and now and what’s affecting us currently, the government of the day need to be held to account, end of, it’s got nothing to do, at all, with governments nearly half a… Read more »


For all your whining the economy is strong and quality of life is as good if not better than it every has been.


What whining?


You compare one of the greatest most successful democracies in history with a welfare system that people are willing to walk across continents just to benefit from with a football team barely escaping relegation. Have some pride and respect.


The analogy was about criticising something that isn’t performing as well as it should be, because in the past the performance has been worse.

It was not a direct comparison between a country and a football team Ffs

It’s a fair analogy and has got nothing to do with pride and respect.

Barry Larking

Thank you Sean. I met my Labour candidate for some top job and smilingly told him and his minders what this ex-Labour voter thought of that Trot, Corbyn. I have not as yet been asked to accept a returned Jihadist as a neighbour which is just as well since I haven’t seen any police (gender fluid) for years around here..

John Clark

Barry, with regards to the EM2 bullpup rifle, it had attained an almost mythical status over the years. The fact of the matter is that the rifle had many issues to overcome before it could have been accepted for service. I base this research and information given by ex SASC Warminster Armourers, who still shoot their examples today on occasion. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have eventually come right of course.. Churchill made a political move to switch to 7.62x51mm and aquire the Fn Fal, subsequently canceling the EM2 (by which time had entered limited production at Enfied as… Read more »

Barry Larking

It was not mythical if it was made tested and approved. The Yanks had EN Mk 1 (seventy years old!) and it worked. They also tried out an experimental SA70 4.85 mm. That worked and received high praise. The same blogs criticised the 7.62 x 51 mm Garand and demonstrated its inability to hold the target in rapid fire – something one might feel would be important in an automatic rifle. The FLN was originally chambered in .260/280 British. It too also is impossible to fire on automatic with 7.62 mm and was never issued with this facility in British… Read more »

John Clark

Barry, I can only go by my experience, I have researched the EN2,( with hands on experience) and shoot L1A1 rifles regularly.

The L1A1 is wonderful rifle and works as advertised.

What’s your hands on experience?


I can comment on the L85, L1 and FAL versions and the M16 derivatives. I believe one of the requirements to replace the L1 was for a more compact rifle for troops embarking/disembarking vehicles. The L1 is a beast of a weapon and will put down a target/person easily out to 600m. It is designed to kill, whereas the the lighter 5.56 was primarily designed to wound. From experience the L85 is more accurate than the M16 series and the A2 version is actually more reliable, especially after prolonged firing where the breechblock gums up. The M16s are more battle… Read more »

John Clark

Hi Davey, I’ve shot all three and am lucky to own and shoot two L1A1’s and an AR. I wholeheartedly agree with you on the HK416, the US further development in the shape of the M27 is about the perfect infantry rifle in my opinion. I would love the MOD to adopt it as our new rifle, particularly as a future shift to a new intermediate caliber, would be very easy to apply to the AR platform, something that could easily be accomplished by unit level armourers if required. I came to the L85 the other way round from most… Read more »


Nah, I do remember them and they weren’t a patch on this lot. Like em or loathe em there were some statesman in all those governments. There is a dearth of quality these days.

Geoffrey Roach

Sadly Barry… the whole bl…. country is obsessed with Brexit the Tories because they T.M. blew it < labour because they don't know which way to go to win an election but beyond that there in gaga land. the Liberals taking the stay route, so God help us, we can all have another vote. The Brexit party!

The only thing I would say is…given his dislike of almost anything NATO orientated would anyone trust Corbyn and Co with defence?


Im not sure many would trust Corbin and Co with their packet of crisps let alone anything else 😀


Great, you trusted Cameron and now look at the country. Jezza couldn’t do any worse!

Daniele Mandelli


Happy to be wrong.


I am reliably informed that according to the last set of Boeing accounts no order is booked; it could mean discussions have taken place or verbal commitments have been given on an agreed price. It does suggest no formal order exists.

Crazy Dave

Have heard on the “grapevine” that MOD are looking into extending the OSD of the final 14 Apaches by 2 years due to budget issues.

Peter Elliott

They’ll be hoping the pound strengthens against the dollar after Brexit is resolved one way or the other. That makes the claim about est value true so far as it goes.

if of course the pound doesn’t strengthen by the time the order has to be placed, they will be stuffed, and either have to cut the fleet or raid other piggyback elsewhere.


What a great idea by Cameron et al to offer a referendum on the EU. Such a marvellous boon for our country. Conservative Party = Ship of Fools. Brexit Party = Ship of aerosols!


I think it’s really good to keep asking the question to the MoD and not let this get brushed under the carpet.

Also, at what point did they decide to put 16 AH1s in storage? I knew that we would be replacing the existing Westland Apache fleet with just 50 airframes, but I naively assumed we would maintain the 66 older Apaches until the new Boeing assembled model was available and the British ones were knackered, rather than taking the opportunity to cut numbers again 🙁


Not sure when the decision was taken, but it’s one that has been repeated again and again – see Merlin numbers.


The Tories continue to pull the wool over peoples eyes that we have & are getting more warships so this shouldn’t surprise us very much. It’s damning that they’ve got used to getting away with it.


It’s the same old story – we’re gonna buy 50, but purchases will be spread over an extended period to make the pennies go around – same with F35B and Type 26 Frigate etc. We could and should have a far greater number of F35Bs in service, but the bean counters actually decide on purchase rates! Similar applies to the Type 31e order – 5 x Decent sized ships to be armed like corvettes to save money – it’s always an obsession with UK Governments to spend the minimum on defence.