AgustaWestland has been awarded a £439 million ($705 million) contract to support operations of the British Army’s 67 Apache AH1 attack helicopters until March 2014.

Signed by the UK Ministry of Defence on 6 October and to come into full effect next April, the Apache integrated operational support (IOS) deal is expected to later be extended to cover use of the type until its planned retirement from service around 2032.

Prime contractor AgustaWestland will manage so-called depth maintenance of the Apache at the army’s Wattisham air base in Suffolk, and also guarantee the availability of AH1s to support training activities at Middle Wallop, Hampshire. Subcontractors include Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Longbow International.

AgustaWestland says the new arrangement will deliver greater aircraft availability and also reduce costs by more than £50 million over the initial contract period. The deal builds on the company’s experience gained through similar IOS deals linked to the UK armed forces’ AW101 Merlin and Sea King transport helicopter fleets.

The British Army received its 67 Apache AH1s between 2000 and 2004, according to Flight’s HeliCAS database. The aircraft is a modified version of Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow, with key changes including the integration of Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines.

 Apache AH1 Afghan - AgustaWestland
© AgustaWestland
British Army Apaches are on duty in Afghanistan

The UK has flown the type in Afghanistan in support of NATO-led operations since 2006.