Should Australia head down that path, it would tick many boxes – it would be a FMS purchase with aircraft produced in the same multi-year contract as the US Army which is acquiring 690 E-models out to the mid 2020s.
That would mean Australia paying around the same price as the US Army. Further, the Apache is a mature capability with more than 2,200 produced since 1984. So far 278 E-models have been delivered in the US and to international customers.
Mark Ballew, Boeing’s director of sales and marketing for attack helicopters, says Apaches have flown more than four million flight hours and more than 1.1 million combat hours.
The latest E-models are operating in Afghanistan today.
“It is combat proven and battle tested,” he said at the Avalon Airshow on Thursday.
The Army’s 22 Tigers only achieved full operational capability last April. Far from a mature capability, Tiger required substantial development which delayed its entry to service. Australian Tigers haven’t yet fired a shot in anger though French Tigers have deployed operationally to Afghanistan.
The 2016 Defence White Paper foreshadowed a replacement capability, though it didn’t specify whether that could be an upgraded Tiger or a new model.
To show off the new Apache at Avalon, Boeing flew one from the US aboard a chartered Antonov An-124 freighter.
Ballew said the E-model, though appearing identical to the D-model, offered improved speed, range, endurance and payload, better interoperability and fire control. Depending on mission requirements, the Apache can carry a lethal selection of weapons including Hellfire and Stinger missiles.
Demonstrating the improved capability to operate with other platforms, the Apache at Avalon linked to the video feed from a Scan Eagle remotely-piloted aircraft. With that capability, a Scan Eagle could watch over an enemy position for up to 16 hours, providing imagery to an Apache for a successful attack.
Ballew said the Apache would still be flying in 2060.
“We have been delivering on time and on budget since 1984. This is the most lethal, most survivable, most sustainable aircraft. It is flying around the world today,” he said.
“Boeing has a long and proud history with Australia. We have proven that we come and work with Australia. We don’t just sell aircraft and say good luck.
”You get the world’s best attack aircraft and you get long-term support from a company like Boeing and increased jobs in country. And you are going to be able to operate with all the other countries flying it right now.”
A Boeing spokesman said the AH-64E Apache could provide Australia with the industry-leading, battled-tested, armed reconnaissance and attack helicopter that the Commonwealth needs.
“With unmatched firepower, the Apache can meet virtually any mission requirement in land and littoral environments and provides aircrews with enhanced situational awareness through its integrated Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities,” he said.
“For long-term value, the AH-64E Apache’s modernisation roadmap combined with Boeing Defence Australia’s proven sustainment capabilities can keep Apaches flying well into the 2060s.”