The AgustaWestland AH1 Apache is a licence-built version of the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter for the British Army's Army Air Corps. The first eight helicopters were built by Boeing; the remaining 59 were assembled by Westland Helicopters (now part of AgustaWestland) at Yeovil, Somerset in England from Boeing-supplied kits. Changes from the AH-64D include Rolls-Royce Turbomeca engines, a new electronic defensive aids suite and a folding blade mechanism allowing the British version to operate from ships. The helicopter was initially designated WAH-64 by Westland Helicopters and was later designated Apache AH Mk 1 (often shortened to Apache AH1) by the Ministry of Defence.
The Apache was a valued form of close air support in the conflict in Afghanistan, being deployed to the region in 2006. The Apache has been an object of controversy over the fitting of some munitions, such as cluster bombs and thermobaric weapons. Naval trials and temporary deployments at sea have proven the aircraft as an able platform to operate from the decks of ships, which is a unique application of the Apache amongst its operators. British Apaches served in the NATO 2011 military intervention in Libya operating from Royal Navy ships.
Several changes were made to the standard Apache design used by the US and those exported to other countries. One major difference is the use of a pair of Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 01/12 engines, replacing the original General Electric T700-GE-701C engines. The Rolls-Royce engine produces 1,565 kW (2,100 hp) vs. 1,410 kW (1,890 hp) for the GE T700C engine. Compared to many helicopters used by coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Apache required less modification to serve in the region due to special filters incorporated into the design. Another change is the folding blade mechanism to stow the helicopters in confined spaces; the rotor blades also have anti-ice protection to allow operations in Arctic environments.
There were changes made to the sensor and avionics outfitting the craft as well; connectivity with the BOWMAN secure communications system to interact with other British military units being a significant one. The Selex ES (formerly BAE Systems Avionics) Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System (HIDAS) was also fitted. The HIDAS system was retrofitted onto the aircraft in mid-2004 just prior to entering service, along with several redesigned composite bodywork components. An eye-safe training laser to allow the Apache to function as a target designator was also installed.
Instead of the American Hydra 70 rocket pods, the Westland Apache can carry up to 76 CRV7 rockets. The CRV-7 uses a modular warhead: "a high explosive, semi-armour piercing warhead for attacks on unarmoured targets and a kinetic energy penetrator, which contains no explosive, for attacks on armoured targets". There used to be a third type of warhead: the Multi-Purpose Sub Munition (MPSM), which was a controversial weapon as it has been classified as a cluster bomb; each rocket contained nine M73 submunitions. In May 2008, several senior officers, such as General David Ramsbotham spoke out against British plans to keep the weapon. In the same month, Britain, as one of the 111 participating nations, agreed to ban cluster bombs on humanitarian grounds. Britain destroyed the last of its CRV-7 MPSMs in July 2009.
Like the US AH-64D Apache Longbow, the Apache AH1 carries a fire-control radar (FCR) and Radar Frequency Interferometer (RFI), providing an integrated surveillance and attack system. The 'Longbow’ radar is the bulbous unit over the rotor hub assembly; radar placement above the rotors allows the Apache to hover behind cover scanning for targets, with only the radar unit exposed. Additionally, the Longbow radar can monitor traffic in the Apache's airspace. The radar can also be used for surveillance and terrain profiling. A modem is interfaced into the Longbow radar and other sensor systems to relay information to other aircraft, this allows other Apaches to fire on targets identified by only a single helicopter.
AgustaWestland have since made several upgrades to Britain's Apache fleet. In May 2005, a $212 million contract was awarded to equip all 67 Mk1 helicopters with the Apache Arrowhead sensor system upgrade, to be completed by 2010. In 2009, it was announced that AgustaWestland was also integrating new external fuel tanks with ballistic protection. Some of the internal fuel tanks can be removed, Apaches in Afghanistan may have these removed to allow for extra ammunition for the cannon to be fitted. It has been suggested that advanced rotor blades and additional controls to improve the agility of the aircraft may be fitted in a mid-life update of the fleet.
In March 2015, the BBC reported the MOD is interested in purchasing the newer Boeing Apache AH-64E to replace its existing Apache fleet, as American suppliers will end its support of the equipment carried in the Army's current generation of WAH-64 Apaches in 2017, which would add greatly to the costs of maintaining the existing fleet.
Army Air Corps AgustWestland AH-1 Apache
Length: 17.7 m (58 ft 4 in with rotors turning)
Rotor diameter: 14.6 m (48 ft)
Height: 3.87 m (12 ft 8 in)
Disc area: 168.11 m² (1,809.5 ft²)
Empty weight: 5,165 kg (11,387 lb)
Loaded weight: 8,006 kg (17,650 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 9,525 kg (21,000 lb)
Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft, 1,566 kW (2,100 hp) each
Never exceed speed: 365 km/h (197 knots, 227 mph)
Maximum speed:293 km/h (158 knots, 182 mph)
Cruise speed: 259 km/h (140 knots, 161 mph)
Range: 537 km (290 nmi, 334 mi)
Ferry range: 1,700 km (974 nmi, 1,121 mi)
Service ceiling: 6,400 m (21,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 12.7 m/s (2,500 ft/min)
Guns: M230 Chain Gun, 1200 rounds
Missiles: Hellfire (and Stinger, Starstreak, Sidewinder/Sidearm proposed)
Rockets: CRV7 with Flechette (Tungsten dart) or High-Explosive Incendiary Semi-Armour Piercing (HEISAP) warheads. Until 2008 also MPSM with nine M-73 bomblets.