US approves Australian AH-64E purchase

The US State Department has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of 29 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters and associated equipment to the Australian government.

Approval of the potential deal – worth an estimated US$3.5bn – was announced in a media release by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on June 3, after it had notified the US Congress of the prospective sale. This possible FMS comes after Australia selected the AH-64E to replace the Australian Army Aviation Corps’ (AAAC’s) 22-strong fleet of Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARHs) under the LAND 4503 programme.

Australian AH-64E [Boeing Australia]
A digital rendering depicting a pair of Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters in flight, wearing Australian Army Aviation Corps camouflage. Boeing Australia

In the media release, the DSCA stated that “the proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats and will enhance interoperability with US forces and other allied forces. Australia will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defence and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure.”

In addition to the 29 attack helicopters, the DSCA states that Australia has also requested 64 GE Aviation T700-GE-701D turboshaft engines (58 installed, six spares); 29 AN/ASQ-170 Modernised Target Acquisition and Designation Sight, AN/AAR-11 Modernised Pilot Night Vision Sensors (M-TADS/PNVS); 16 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Modernised Radio Frequency Interferometers; and 70 Embedded Global Positioning Systems with Inertial Navigation Systems plus Multi-Mode Receivers (58 installed, 12 spares).

The deal also provides for 35 AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems (29 installed, six spares); and 70 AN/ARC-231A Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) radios (58 installed, 12 spares). It also covers the procurement of a variety of other related systems, spare and repair parts, training devices (including simulators) and support equipment.

AH-64E [Boeing]
Australia selected Boeing's AH-64E Apache Guardian to fulfil its requirement for a proven, off-the-shelf attack helicopter to replace the army's incumbent Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) Tiger ARH fleet. Boeing

A variety of munitions have also been included in this possible FMS. Notably, Australia has requested 85 AGM-114R Hellfire air-to-ground missiles; 29 M36E8 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); and 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System Guidance Sections (APKWS-GS). An unspecified number of M230E1 and M139 AWS automatic guns; M261 rocket launchers; M299 missile launchers; 2.75in rockets and 30mm rounds. Additionally, the deal also includes an undisclosed number of Manned-Unmanned Teaming-2 (MUMT-X) air-air-ground kits, allowing Australia to exploit the AH-64Es ability to team up with unmanned aerial systems during missions.

The selection of the Apache Guardian to succeed the Tiger ARH fleet in AAAC service was announced by Australian Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds, on January 15, 2021. The AH-64E was the preferred option over Bell’s AH-1Z Viper offering and Airbus Helicopters’ proposed upgrade of the AAAC’s incumbent Tiger fleet. In announcing the Apache Guardian’s selection, Reynolds noted that first deliveries of the type are scheduled to take place in 2025.