The UK looks increasingly likely to procure the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter, following comments made by a senior government minister on 17 March.
Answering questions in the House of Commons, Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support, and Technology, said that the government is currently considering options to sustain the British Army's Apache fleet until its planned out of service date in 2040.
The 66 WAH-64D Block I helicopters in the UK inventory are rapidly becoming unsupportable, as the US Army and Boeing shift their attention to the AH-64D Block II and AH-64E (formerly known as AH-64D Block III) fleets as operated by the US and most international customers. While the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is known to be looking at options to replace the army's current AgustaWestland-Boeing WAH-64D Apache Longbow AH.1 fleet, ministers have previously only spoken about retaining the capability as opposed to retaining the Apache specifically. Options previously touted included the procurement of a new helicopter type altogether.
Given the success of the Apache in Afghanistan and Libya, the British Army has made clear its desire to upgrade its current WAH-64D Block I helicopters with the latest variant AH-64E. Speaking at the IQPC International Military Helicopter conference in London in January, the deputy commander of the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), Brigadier Neil Sexton, said that the army "rather hopes" that the AH-64E will be the chosen successor, for fielding before 2020.
Boeing officials have previously told IHS Jane's that AH-64E programme delays incurred by sequestration in the United States were having the unintended consequence of buying the United Kingdom time in making its decision, although a decision will need to be made before too much longer.
The MoD is currently undertaking a capability sustainment programme (CSP) to sustain the UK's attack helicopter capability out to 2040 and beyond, but has declined to say when it will report the findings of this study.