US approves sale of AH-64E or AH-1Z to the Philippines

The US State Department has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of six Bell AH-1Z Viper and six Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters to the Philippines.

Approval for the acquisition of both platforms was approved on April 30, but only one type will be selected by the Philippines in its campaign to modernise its attack helicopter fleet and its associated capabilities. 

There is a significant cost difference between the two potential deals, with the AH-64E package estimated to cost US$1.5bn and the AH-1Z option being worth roughly US$450m.

AH-64E [US Army/CWO3 Mark Leung] #1
A US Army AH-64E Apache Guardian - belonging to the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade - conducts the variant's first deck landing qualifications on the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in 2014. US Army/CWO3 Mark Leung

Both packages offer six helicopters, their specific powerplants, spares, support and training equipment, along with munitions such as BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) and Lockheed Martin-developed AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles.

The AH-64E package’s higher cost comes down to the extensive inclusion of additional aircraft systems and weapons. It includes 18 GE Aviation T700-GE-701D turboshaft engines, 200 FIM-92H Stinger missiles, eight Manned-Unmanned Teaming-2 (MUMT-2i) air-to-ground kits, 5,000 2.75in rockets, 80,000 30mm rounds and 300 APKWS kits. If selected by the Philippines, work to deliver this package will be conducted by Boeing at its facility in Mesa, Arizona, and by Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Florida.

In comparison, the AH-1Z package is much smaller and thus brings down the price of the possible sale. It includes 14 GE Aviation T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines, six AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles, seven M197 20mm machine guns, 5,000 20mm Semi-Armour Piercing High Explosive Incendiary (SAPHEI) rounds and 26 APKWS kits. If selected, work on this contract will take place at Bell’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and at GE Aviation in Lynn, Massachusetts.

AH-1Z [USMC/SSgt William L Holdaway] #1
A USMC Bell AH-1Z Viper - belonging to the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 167 'Warriors' - takes off in Charleston, Virginia last July. USMC/SSgt William L Holdaway

According to the DSCA, “the proposed sale will assist the Philippines in developing and maintaining strong [self-defence], counterterrorism, and critical infrastructure protection capabilities. The Philippines will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment and support into its armed forces… The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The Hukbong Humpapawid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Air Force, PAF) has operated a pair of former-Jordanian Bell AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters since November 2019. The aircraft are operated by the 20th Attack Squadron from Danilo Atienza air base in Cavite. It is unknown whether the additional six aircraft will complement or ultimately replace the AH-1Fs.