The year 2001 is shaping up to be a busy one for attack helicopter manufacturers, with critical decisions pending in Asia and the Middle East. An Egyptian contract to remanufacture 35 Apaches to AH-64Ds is expected and a request for proposals (RFP) is anticipated from Japan to formally kick off its AH-X requirement.


Egypt is expected to finalise a previously announced deal to upgrade its fleet of AH-64As, despite US Government reluctance to supply the Longbow fire-control radar. The helicopters will instead be rebuilt as AH-64Ds fitted for, but not with, the mast-mounted radar, but able to receive remote Longbow data.

One sticking point has been Israel's insistence on maintaining a qualitative edge over its neighbour. Israel has decided to remanufacture one of its 41 AH-64As to Apache Longbow standard as a demonstration validation, as well as ordering eight new-build machines.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is expressing interest in the AH-64D Apache Longbow, possibly as new production or as a rebuild of its 12 AH-64As. According to US officials, Kuwait is still intent on finalising its long-awaited deal for 16 radar-equipped AH-64Ds worth $640 million.

The Apache faces competition in Japan from the Bell AH-IZ Super Cobra and a proposed light attack version of the indigenous Kawasaki OH-2. The Japan Defence Agency is expected to release its RFP by March. In a surprise move, Fuji has teamed with Boeing to offer the Apache after licence-producing the AH-IF for many years, leaving Bell to join Mitsubishi.

The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force originally required up to 100 AH-X machines to replace earlier models of the Cobras. There is speculation that to satisfy local industry, the buy might end up a mix of high-end AH-1Zs or AH-64Ds with a longer-term buy of smaller AH-2s from Kawasaki.

South Korea, meanwhile, is soon expected to begin flight evaluation of competing attack helicopters. It is understood to have narrowed its field of contenders to four machines, including the AH-64D, AH-1Z, Eurocopter Tiger and Kamov Ka-52. It plans to order 36 helicopters.

• The US Army has again grounded its fleet of 742 AH-64A and D Apaches as a precaution after the discovery during an inspection of a faulty swash plate assembly, failure of which could result in the loss of a helicopter.

Source: Flight International