Boeing has delivered the first of more than two dozen upgraded AH-64E attack helicopters planned for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).

The American aerospace giant said on 25 October that the Dutch government has received its first AH-64E Version 6 Apache rotorcraft, following a series of improvements made by Boeing at a facility in Mesa, Arizona.

“This first delivery is an important step in modernising our entire Apache fleet,” says Vice Admiral Arie Jan de Waard, director of the Netherlands’ Defence Materiel Organisation.

AH-64E Apache Longbow

Source: US Army

A US Army AH-64E Apache Longbow

He adds that the updated attack helicopter provides Dutch forces with “more combat power and situational awareness”.

The RNLAF operates the older AH-64D, but in 2019 entered a deal with Boeing to re-manufacture 28 airframes into the more-advanced “Echo” model.

Boeing says the upgrade brings improved flight performance, more-capable sensors and the latest software to the Dutch aircraft.

“The Apache is the most advanced and proven attack helicopter, and demand for it continues to increase worldwide,” says Kathleen Jolivette, vice-president of attack helicopter programmes at Boeing.

“By upgrading from the D-model to the E-model Apache, the [RNLAF] will gain a significant increase in attack power, versatility and situational awareness for decades to come,” she adds.

The Apache was originally designed and built for the US Army by Hughes Helicopters in 1976. The helicopter entered full production with McDonnell Douglas, which acquired Hughes, in the early 1980s.

Boeing assumed control of the programme in 1997 after combining with McDonnell Douglas.

Dutch forces have operated “Delta”-model Apaches since 1998, according to Boeing. The company says deliveries of re-manufactured E-model Apaches will be complete in 2025.

More than 2,600 AH-64 airframes have been delivered to 17 global customers since 1984, according to Boeing. Of those, 1,260 are currently flying, including 665 Echo models.