The aircraft (serial Q-31) is the first of 28 RNLAF-operated AH-64D Apache Longbow gunships to be redelivered to the service after being remanufactured and upgraded to the AH-64E Version 6-standard, which features improvements to the helicopter’s performance, sensor systems and software. This initial delivery marks a major milestone for the ongoing upgrade programme, which is being conducted as part of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) – worth $1.19bn – through the US Department of Defense (DoD). Boeing was contracted to remanufacture the RNLAF’s existing fleet of 28 AH-64Ds in 2019 and is expected to deliver the final upgraded AH-64E to the Netherlands in 2025.
Commenting on the upgrade, Kathleen Jolivette – vice president of Attack Helicopter Programs and Senior Mesa Site Executive at Boeing – said: “Apache is the most advanced and proven attack helicopter, and demand for it continues to increase worldwide. By upgrading from the D-model to the E-model Apache, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will gain a significant increase in attack power, versatility and situational awareness for decades to come.”
When the US State Department approved the FMS in February 2018, it stated that the project would upgrade the 51 remaining GE Aviation T700-GE-701C turboshaft engines to the newer T700-GE-701D standard, which will permit the RNLAF’s remanufactured Apache fleet to carry the mast-mounted sight it was unable to in hot-and-high conditions due to weight restrictions. The deal also included the installation of AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars; AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sights (MTADS); AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors (PNVS) and AN/APR-48B Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers (MRFI), among other systems.
Vice Adm Arie Jan de Waard, director of the Netherlands’ Defence Materiel Organisation, added: “It is an honour to receive the first remanufactured Apache Echo. This updated attack helicopter is a great improvement and gives the Royal Netherlands Air Force more combat power and situational awareness. This first delivery is an important step in modernising our entire Apache fleet.”
The RNLAF has operated the AH-64D Apache Longbow since 1998, with the type being employed operationally by No 301 Squadron from Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands and for training purposes under No 302 Squadron (JNTD; Joint Netherlands Training Detachment) at Fort Hood in Texas. In total, 30 AH-64Ds were delivered to the Netherlands between 1998-2002. Just two airframes have been lost to attrition in RNLAF service, with the first occurring on August 29, 2004, and the second on March 17, 2015.
The AH-64E Version 6 is the most modern version of the Apache attack helicopter family, of which the first prototype (designated the YAH-64A) completed its maiden flight on September 30, 1975. Since 1984, more than 2,600 Apaches have been delivered to the US Army and 17 export customers across the globe. Boeing states that over 1,260 AH-64s are currently in operational service worldwide, of which more than 665 are E-model examples.