The US State Department has given its authorisation to a possible $3 billion deal to remanufacture 50 of the British Army’s current AgustaWestland/Boeing Apache AH1 attack helicopters to the latter's AH-64E-model standard.

Following a request by the UK to upgrade its fleet, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 27 August that a potential Foreign Military Sales deal has been authorised, paving the way for a decision to be made by the UK government on whether to proceed with the upgrade.

Questions have surrounded the future of the UK’s AH-64D-based fleet, which will face obsolescence issues as the US Army stops supporting the Longbow model that it is progressively phasing out.

An acquisition of brand-new rotorcraft had been expected by some – and could still be an option – and further clarity is expected following the release of the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review in October.

The US-authorised modernisation activity would be led by Boeing and would include 110 General Electric T700-701D engines – which would replace the Apache AH1’s current Turbomeca RTM322s – refurbished Lockheed Martin modernised target acquisition and designation sights and AAR-11 modernised pilot night vision sensors. The work would also refurbish the type’s Longbow fire control radar, and provide 60 common missile warning systems, plus navigation systems and replacement helmets.

Manned-unmanned teaming systems would also be included, along with new identification friend or foe systems, infrared countermeasures equipment and Link 16 data link terminals. The deal would additionally cover the provision of logistical support.

UK Apache AH-64D

The UK's Apache AH1

Crown Copyright

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress around the world,” the DSCA says. “The upgrade and refurbishment of these helicopters will allow the United Kingdom greater interoperability with US forces.”

AH-64E - US Army

The US Army's AH-64E

US Army

Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer database shows the Army Air Corps to have 49 Apache AH1s in service, plus 16 more in storage.

The US Army, meanwhile, has 100 AH-64E Guardians in service, with a further 27 on order. It also has 233 AH-64Ds and 457 AH-64D Extended Block II rotorcraft in use.