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British Army retires Apache AH1 attack helicopters, declares AH-64Es ‘operationally ready'

After 23 years of service that has seen it conduct combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya, the WAH-64 Apache Longbow AH1 has been retired from the British Army. It is being replaced by the AH-64E V6 Apache Guardian. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

The British Army has retired its AgustaWestland-Boeing WAH-64 Apache Longbow AH1, at the same time declaring the AH-64E Version 6 (V6) Apache Guardian successor attack helicopter to be “operationally ready”.

The last of the original 67 Apache AH1 helicopters were formally withdrawn from service during a farewell flypast on 25 March. Flown by the Army Air Corps' (AAC's) 656 Squadron across 15 locations in England and Wales that are synonymous with army aviation, this event marked the end of 23 years of operations for the type that entered service in 2001.

Of the 67 Apache AH1s received, one was lost during combat operations in Afghanistan in September 2008. With the end of that mission in December 2014, 16 of the remaining 66 helicopters were put into long-term storage, with 50 retained for operational service.

The 50 WAH-64 (analogous to the AH-64D Block I standard) helicopters are in the process of being remanufactured to the latest AH-64E V6 Apache Guardian standard. The British Army reported in February that 38 AH-64Es had so far been received back from Boeing, which is doing the upgrade work at its Mesa production facility in Arizona.

Although the precise nature of the remanufacturing process for the UK helicopters has not been disclosed, it involves a number of the existing systems (not including the engines) being cross-decked from the old Apache Longbow to the new Apache Guardian airframes.

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