The UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) planned acquisition of 50 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters via a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) arrangement with the US Government appears to be running to budget, according to the latest figures.

Detailing the currently initial procurement cost of the UK Apache FMS with the US, UK Defence Procurement Minister James Cartlidge stated on 17 May 2024, that the current forecast was £1.793bn ($2.3bn) against an approval of £1.999bn.

This is broadly on track with the figures outlined in the earlier FMS agreement between the UK and US.

In addition, the long-term training and support for the British Army’s future AH-64E, which will be supplied by Boeing Defence UK (BDUK) through the current five-year Long-Term Training and Support Contract (LTTSC) has a value of £341.2m, not including actual operating costs of the platform, which are accounted for separately.

This sees a change in sustainment provision, with the older Mk1 Apaches in service with the British Army being maintained by Leonardo until they leave service.

The 20-year agreement with BDUK will cover aircraft design organisation services, maintenance, logistics support, pilot, and maintainer and groundcrew training.

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The first of the AH-64E Apache helicopters was delivered in 2020. Credit: UK MoD/Crown copyright

In 2020, the UK MoD’s DE&S finalised the FMS with the US Government to buy 50 AH-64Es, worth approximately $2.3bn at the time, with the first two aircraft arriving in November 2020. By February 2024, 38 airframes had been delivered ahead of the arrival of the final dozen AH-64Es by the end of the year.

Initial Operating Capability was declared in May 2023, with a Full Operating Capability on track for early 2026, according to DE&S. According to GlobalData intelligence the British Army retains around 20 Apache Mk1 variants in service, originally procured between 2001 and 2007, which are due to leave service by the end of the 2024.

DE&S states a large number of parts from the Mk1 are being used in the production of the E model, which reduces production costs, effectively remanufacturing the aircraft with upgraded and updated capabilities.

AH-64E Apache: open architecture planning

According to GlobalData, Boeing designed the AH-64E with open systems architecture to support long-term plans to position the platform as a key component of the multi-domain operations.

This compliments the UK MoD’s procurement reform, in which the Government prioritises a fast delivery with minimal sovereign configuration details, underscored in the Defence Command Paper in July 2023.

New capabilities with the AH-64E compared to the D variant include improved rotor blades, engine output, maritime mode radar, and weaponry. The UK’s acquisition, combining platform acquisition as the LTTSC amounts to £2.13bn.

With input from John Hill and Andrew Salerno-Garthwaite.