The US State Department has approved the sale of 29 AH-64E Apaches to the Australian government for a projected US$3.5 billion.
The deal, which will include spare parts, training and operational equipment, was first announced in January and the new aircraft are set to replace Army’s beleaguered Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters from 2025.
It will draw a line under a damning National Audit Office report in 2016, which found 76 “capability deficiencies” with the existing Tiger fleet, including 60 that were deemed to be critical. It was subsequently revealed only a fraction of the aircraft were available to be flown on any given day in 2015.
The new agreement will include:
- 64 T700-GE 701D engines, of which six will be held as spare by the ADF;
- 29 pilot night vision sensors and radar frequency interferometers;
- 16 fire control radars, 70 GPS units;
- 35 missile warning systems; and
- 85 Hellfire missiles.
According to the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the sale of the Apache to the Australian government will support strengthened interoperability between the US and Australia, with Boeing and Lockheed Martin being the key primes involved in the sale.
“This new ARH capability will strengthen Australia’s armed reconnaissance force to better shape our strategic environment and deter actions against our national interest. Defence considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system,” then-defence minister Linda Reynolds said earlier this year.
“The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defence’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements.
“By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, Defence will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms.
“The project will deliver on the government’s vision to maximise Australian industry involvement in defence capability. There are potential opportunities for Australian industry in logistic support, warehousing services, training development, engineering services, and maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“Maximising these opportunities for Australian businesses will enable the future growth of our local rotary wing industry and will present opportunities for Australian industry involvement in the aircraft’s global supply chain.”
The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter and represents the backbone of the US Army attack helicopter fleet, as well as a growing number of international defence forces.