The UAE is to procure nine new-build Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardians, and will upgrade eight of its existing AH-64D aircraft to the same standard, together with related equipment, training, and support, writes Jon Lake.
The $242 million contract has an estimated completion date of February 28, 2023.
Full-rate production on the AH-64E Guardian variant began in 2012. It features an upgraded Longbow fire control radar, more powerful engines, advanced avionics and enhanced night-vision capabilities.
The UAE’s Special Operations Command currently operates 28 AH-64D Apaches – converted from the 30 AH-64A helicopters purchased in 1991 and 1994 in an upgrade program that began in 2008.
The UAE has a long-standing requirement for more Apaches, and to upgrade its aircraft to the latest AH-64E standard – originally known as the AH-64D Block III.
In 2010, the UAE Government requested a possible sale of 30 AH-64D Block III Apache helicopters and for an upgrade of its 30 existing AH-64D Block II lot 10 Apaches, which were to be remanufactured to AH-64D Block III configuration, giving a total fleet of 60 aircraft.
But it scaled back its requirement and, in December 2016, the US State Department approved a proposed sale of just nine new-build AH-64E helicopters, with 28 AH-64Ds to be re-manufactured to the same standard to give a fleet of 37 aircraft.
The latest US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) approval sees the nine new-build aircraft augmented by just eight AH-64D conversions.
It is not known whether the UAE plans to upgrade its remaining 20 Apaches to the same standard at a later date, or whether the procurement of 30 Northstar Aviation 407 MRH Lightning multi-role helicopters, and of large numbers of UH-60L and UH-60M Black Hawks, has reduced the requirement for Apaches.
It would seem unlikely that the remaining 20 AH-64Ds can remain in service for an extended period without some kind of upgrade, as obsolescence and diminishing manufacturing resources will start to make some systems increasingly difficult to support.
Credits – arabianaerospace.aero (http://bit.ly/2JtNbNy)