UK marks operational debut for AH-64E

The British Army Air Corps' (AAC's) newly acquired Boeing AH-64E (Version 6) Apache Guardian attack helicopter has marked its operational debut after the type participated in Exercise Talon Guardian.

Performed by the AAC's 3 Regiment, Exercise Talon Guardian - a two-week training operation - saw the unit fly a total of 1,500km, placing its personnel and assets at three different locations, from which they were able to plan and execute attack missions and maintain the operational readiness of the new AH-64E.

Two AH-64Es of the AAC prepare to depart for a training mission during Exercise Talon Guardian
Two AH-64E (Version 6) Apache Guardians of the AAC prepare to depart for a training mission during Exercise Talon Guardian. MOD Crown Copyright/British Army

Commenting on the exercise, Lt Col Simon Wilsey - commander of 3 Regiment AAC - said: “Exercise Talon Guardian is a significant step forward for the British Army’s AH-64E, which is the most advanced attack helicopter in the world. We have been working hard to learn how to fly and maintain the AH-64E; now we’re getting the aircraft out into the field, tackling the additional complexities of living, planning, maintaining, and operating in an austere environment and developing how we fight with it."

The unit started the operation by deploying from its home base - Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk - to the MOD Otterburn ranges in Northumberland. The aircrew also tested both themselves and the AH-64E on the ranges of RAF Spadeadam, Cumbria, where they targeted various artillery pieces and armoured vehicles. Passing through RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, 3 Regiment then moved to Bramley, Hampshire, so the AH-64E and its crew could practice hunting Challenger 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) on the training areas of Salisbury Plain - all while being protected by air defence systems.

Speaking about his experience during the training exercise, Capt ‘H’ - an AAC AH-64E pilot assigned to 3 Regiment - said the switch to the AH-64E from the legacy WAH-64D Apache AH1 it will eventually replace in operational service was “like changing your mobile phone from a Nokia 3310 to an iPhone 14. The aircraft may look the same from the outside, but everything’s changed inside to bring improved capabilities in sensors, flying performance, weaponry and communications.”

In total, the UK will receive 50 examples of the AH-64E Version 6-standard platform to replace its WAH-64D Apache AH1 fleet, which will reach its out of service date in 2024.