Dutch Launch Apache Helicopter Upgrade

The Dutch defense ministry has told Parliament it has launched the upgrade of its AH-64D Apache attack helicopters to “E” Guardian standard, but only said the cost will vary between “€250 million and €1 billion”. (NL MoD photo)

Defense wants to modernize the fleet of 28 aircraft AH-64D Apache combat helicopters. After about 20 years, they are technically and operationally outdated. The aircraft are being thoroughly modernized so that the Air Force can continue to operate Apaches until 2050. This is what State Secretary for Defence Barbara Visser reports today in a letter to the House of Representatives.

The Apache is especially important in joint operations with other air force units, and provides firepower and observation capabilities during land operations. However, technical and operational factors make the deployment of the helicopters more difficult. This already leads to operational restrictions in circumstances with high threat levels. The limitations are increasing because of rapid technological developments.

Modernization is not only important, because the defense of its own and allied territory is now more prominent. Also, deployment during missions that promote the international legal order must be guaranteed. Furthermore, the American army, the most important Apache user, is stopping support of the Dutch AH-64Ds, because the Americans are modernizing their Apaches to a new standard: the AH-64E.

Most other AH-64D users, including the United Kingdom, are following. As a result, the costs for maintaining the outdated D version are rising sharply. A cost-benefit analysis shows that participation in the so-called remanufacture program is the most obvious option, and also the most advantageous.

By modernizing to the E-model, the Dutch Apache will remain almost identical to that of other users. This makes the aircraft completely interoperable when deployed in a coalition context. This also allows the Netherlands to cooperate even more closely in preparation and maintenance. Think joint training, exchange of flight safety data and cost-sharing in case of further development of the aircraft.

Remanufacture means rebuilding and overhauling the existing AH-64D helicopters. They are equipped with new fuselages, transmissions, rotor blades, and the power of the engines is increased. If everything goes according to plan, the Air Force will again have brand-new aircraft from 2022 onwards.

The modernization costs between € 250 million and € 1 billion.

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