Paul Derby/DUBAI

Boeing is set to capitalise on an emerging Middle East market for the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. Among other countries, Boeing is talking to the United Arab Emirates about upgrading its 30-strong fleet.

The UAE currently operates the original -A model Apache but is considering a remanufacturing programme which would equip its forces with the improved AH-64D version.

A decision taken by the US government back in February to release technology for the Longbow millimetre wave radar to Kuwait has kickstarted fresh interest from potential customers in the region.

Boeing says it is now waiting for Kuwait to contact Washington with a fresh request for the Letter of Authorisation relating to the Lockheed Martin Longbow system. The original requirement stood at 16 machines as part of an overall package including tooling, spares, test equipment and ammunition.

"Kuwait was keen that the technology was made available," says Mike Carruthers, Apache Middle East marketing manager. "Clearly each individual case must be evaluated separately, but the decision does open some doors for us in this part of the world."

Winning business

"We're talking to people all the time and we're hopeful that we'll be winning business in the next 12 months."

Kuwait plans to replace its ageing fleet of Eurocopter Gazelles with Apaches while neighbours Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who are also -A model operators, might also decide to upgrade their aircraft in the near future.

"There are 140 -A models operational in the international arena," says Carruthers, "so there's a large market out there."

Meanwhile, the Apache Longbow is competing in two potentially lucrative competitions for attack helicopters. Final submissions by the five rival bidders will be lodged with Turkey later this month. A $3 billion, 150 aircraft order is the prize.

The Australian Air 87 programme for an armed attack/reconnaissance helicopter has been narrowed to three airframes. The Apache is up against the Agusta A129 Scorpion and the Eurocopter Tiger.

Source: Flight Daily News