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Apache AH Mk 1
GKN Westland WAH-64D Apache

The Apache AH Mk 1 (also referred to as the GKN Westland WAH-64D Apache) is a derivative of the US Army's AH-64D Apache Longbow, the next-generation version of the combat-proven AH-64A Apache. The Apache AH Mk 1 incorporates a series of enhancements that make it more effective in combat, and more survivable, deployable and maintainable in the field. The Apache AH Mk 1's fire control radar and advanced avionics suite give combat pilots the ability to rapidly detect, classify, prioritize and engage stationary or moving enemy targets at standoff ranges in nearly all weather environments. The Apache AH Mk 1's ability to communicate digitally with other aircraft and ground forces, and to share that information almost instantly, also gives it a significant warfighting advantage over current combat helicopters.

The British Apache AH Mk 1 was developed to replace the ageing Lynx AH Mk 7 system in the anti-armour role. The aircraft was developed from the AH-64D Longbow Apache, but fitted with the advanced Rolls-Royce RTM322 engine already used in the Royal Navy and RAF's Merlin helicopter. It was equipped with the Longbow Fire Control Radar, Semi-Active Laser and Radio Frequency (Brimstone) versions of the HELLFIRE missile, 70mm CRV-7 ground suppression rockets, and 30mm cannon.

The Apache AH Mk 1 is fitted with a state of the art defensive aids suite from BAE Systems which allows it to detect enemy missile attacks and take countermeasures by firing chaff and decoys. Its Longbow FCR gives it its main edge, allowing it to detect over 1,000 targets at once and tell the pilot if they are tanks, trucks or air defence systems. Its HELLFIRE fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles can strike at heavily armoured tanks from nearly 4 miles away, and its CRV-7 rockets, built by BAE Systems, can devastate light armour or unarmoured vehicles. The Apache AH MK 1 can fly at up nearly 200 miles per hour, and can loiter for up to 4 hours over the battlefield out to a range of 40 miles.

The WAH-64 procurement strategy was based on an "Off-The-Shelf" buy of the complete weapons system through a Prime Contractor. Following an international competition, a Prime Contract for the supply of 67 WAH-64s and the integration of its weapons was placed with GKN-Westland Helicopters Limited in March 1996 (hence the additional W prefix in the commercial designation). Boeing was the major sub-contractor. A separate contract for the procurement of munitions stocks was placed with Hunting Engineering Limited on 29 March 1996. Equipment to meet key requirements were added to the Prime Contract in 1999 (i.e. Health and Usage Monitoring System and Communications upgrade).

The WAH-64 Apache project was one of the first to form into an Integrated Project Team, a key element of the Ministry of Defence's Smart Procurement Initiative, in November 1998. The 70-strong team was centered in the Defence Procurement Agency at Abbey Wood, Bristol, but included staff at RNAS Yeovilton, at GKN Westland facilities in Yeovil and with the US Army's Programme Office in Huntsville, Alabama. The IPT identified that, with capital investment in alternative support strategies, potential savings of 700 million in the support costs of Apache in its projected 30 year life were achievable, possibly increasing to 1 billion.

On 28 September 1998, the Boeing Company rolled out the first production WAH-64D Apache Longbow multi-mission combat helicopter for the United Kingdom, 2 days ahead of schedule in a ceremony at the company's Mesa, Arizona rotorcraft center. The aircraft was the first of 67 WAH-64D helicopters that were to be delivered by GKN Westland through 2003. The WAH-64D Apache was delivered to prime contractor GKN Westland Helicopters Limited of Yeovil, England. GKN Westland was the first customer to acquire Apaches under a commercial contract. Following a comprehensive test and evaluation program, GKN Westland would deliver its first WAH-64D to the British Ministry of Defence in early 2000. The rollout came only 3 days after the WAH-64D Apache made its first flight on 25 September 1998 in Mesa. GKN Westland's production line at Yeovil for the remaining 59 aircraft opened on schedule in September 1999.

Key government and military officials from the United Kingdom and the United States attended the ceremony. The keynote speaker was Richard I. Case, chief executive of GKN Westland Helicopters, Limited. "The success of this program has been made possible by the excellent people from all the companies on both sides of the Atlantic who work together as a single team," Case told attendees. "I would like to take this opportunity of thanking in particular those involved from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and GKN Westland Helicopters who are delivering this key project both on time and on budget. The successful teamwork demonstrated to date serves as a reminder that the complete team offers unrivaled strength in project management and experience in delivering the world's most advanced attack helicopter to the British Army."

"Our partnership with GKN Westland on the Apache Longbow will have a major economic impact on companies in the United States and the United Kingdom," said Mike Sears, president of Military Aircraft and Missile Systems at The Boeing Company. "This is a great program for GKN Westland, for Boeing and the U.K. government."

As a subcontractor to GKN Westland, Boeing built 8 aircraft and partially assembled the remaining 59 WAH-64D Apache aircraft at its Mesa facility. Final assembly, flight test, delivery and support for these aircraft took place at GKN Westland's Yeovil facility. In addition to Boeing, major subcontractors on the program included Rolls-Royce-Turbomeca, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Around 180 British companies benefited from the WAH-64 program, generating about 34,000 man years of work, equivalent to 3,000 jobs per year at the peak. The main UK sub-contractors were Rolls-Royce Turbomeca, Bristol, BAE Systems, Stanmore, Avimo, Taunton, Pilkington Optronics, Glasgow, Plessey Seimens, Christchurch, Hunting Engineering, Ampthill, Shorts Munitions, Belfast, and Royal Ordnance at Summerfield, Glascoed and Chorley.

The first aircraft were delivered to the Army for flight trials at the Defence Evaluation and research Agency, Boscombe Down, commencing April 2000 . The WAH-64D Apache helicopter achieved its official in service date, following the delivery of the ninth aircraft, on 16 January 2001, only 2 weeks later than contractually scheduled. Deliveries continued with 41, of the eventual 67, aircraft due to have been delivered by the end of 2002. The delivery of capability was not solely linked to the helicopter delivery schedule and in order to be declared at the required readiness and collective performance level, squadrons and regiments had to undergo collective training. In December 2001, GKN and Finmeccanica Spa merged their helicopter subsidiaries, which became AgustaWestland. The joint company became the primary contractor for the British Apache helicopter.

The Army expected to have an initial operating capability, consisting of the first operational Apache-equipped squadron, in August 2004, and a full task force capability based on an Attack Helicopter regiment was planned for early 2005. Full Operating Capability would be at the end of the conversion of the 3rd Army Air Corps Regiment in February 2007. By June 2004, the Ministry of Defence had accepted delivery of 67 aircraft. There were at that time 19 Apache in storage at RAF Shawbury, which reduced to zero when all t3 Attack Helicopter Regiments were formed by late November 2006. Wattisham airfield was the main centre of Army Air Corps operational activity, and home of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter that was assigned to support 16 Air Assault Brigade based at Colchester. The British Army was the first defense force to field an all-Longbow-equipped Apache fleet, and the first to field Apaches powered by Rolls-Royce-Turbomeca RTM322 engines.

As the backbone of the new 16 Air Assault Brigade, the WAH-64 was intended to work alongside units like the Paras to hold and seize objectives and attack enemy tanks and other armor from a distance of more than 4 miles. 16 Air Assault Brigade was at the heart of the new Joint Helicopter Command, established October 1999 to bring together the Royal Navy's Commando helicopters, all operational Army Air Corps helicopters, and the RAF's support helicopters. The JHC had responsibility for some 12,000 personnel and some 350 helicopters.

The delivery of training services for Apache pilots, groundcrew and maintenance staff through a 1 billion PFI deal with Boeing and Westland, had been delayed primarily by problems with the pilot Full Mission Simulator. As a consequence, the full Apache pilot conversion programme was expected to be completed in February 2007. In order to accelerate the conversion programme and recover some of the lost time, the United Kingdom's MOD was examining ways to increase the throughput of aircrew on the conversion courses without compromising quality.

As announced by Secretary of State on 26 January 2006, 18 helicopters deployed to Afghanistan over six months: eight AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, four Lynx light utility helicopters and six CH-47 Chinook support helicopters. These assets were available to support all UK troops and were not allocated to a specific regiment. They were allocated according to operational priorities.

As of 2011, AgustaWestland remained the primary contractor for the Apache AH Mk 1 (the use of the commercial designation WAH-64 or WAH-64D having been dropped), with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Longbow International also being part of the team supplying support for the helicopter to the British Army.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:09:39 ZULU