More than a dozen new AH-64E Apaches, one of the most advanced attack helicopters anywhere in the world, are undergoing test flights with the British Army.
Fourteen of the new aircraft have been delivered to Wattisham Flying Station, with 36 more due to arrive by summer 2024.
Tests flights of the lethal new Apaches are now underway. It’s anticipated the first of the new helicopters will enter operational service early next year.
The new aircraft have improved sensors and lethality, upgraded weapons systems and heightened communications compared to its predecessor, the MK1. Comparable to high-end super cars, the new Apaches also boast a top speed of 300kmh (186 mph) and can launch from both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
They are able to detect 256 potential targets at once, prioritising the most urgent threats within seconds, up to a range of 16km (10 miles) away – a distance 57 times the length of HMS Queen Elizabeth or over twice the length of the Grand National course.
A 20-year agreement has been signed with Boeing Defence UK to maintain and support the new fleet.
Defence procurement minister, Jeremy Quin said: ‘There can be no doubt these impressive Apache helicopters will help the Army sustain its battle-winning capabilities in future operations. ‘In addition to its vital defence purpose, this cutting-edge technology will create and support hundreds of UK jobs.’
With £287m confirmed for the first period of the contract, in place until July 2025, the agreement will create more than 200 jobs in the UK, including 165 for the Army Aviation Centre at Middle Wallop in Hampshire and 45 at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk.
The British Army has been using the world-leading Apache capability since 2005, with the attack helicopters used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Lieutenant General Sir Chris Tickell, deputy chief of the general staff, said the new helicopters would fit in with the army’s Future Soldier strategy to overhaul the military.
He added: ‘I am delighted at the introduction of the AH-64E into British Army service, signifying our commitment to investing in the right equipment for our people to compete and win against the threats facing the UK.
‘Within Future Soldier, we committed to winning the deep battle so that the close battle is as anti-climactic as possible, thereby reducing the risk to our people.
‘The AH-64E is a truly world-beating capability that will, alongside other capabilities we are introducing, ensure we succeed.’