(Image: wiltshirespotter; Apache AH1 ZJ177 in storage at RAF Shawbury, 2004)
Joint Force Harrier may have been put out to (arid) pasture, but the UK military nevertheless retains a formidable carrier-capable strike platform in the AgustaWestland Apache AH1 (pending the arrival of the F-35). The attack helicopter – a licensed-built version of the original Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow – has been in service with the British Army Air Corps since July 2004.
The first eight gunships to be delivered were built by Boeing. A further 59 were assembled by Westland Helicopters at Yeovil, Somerset. These airframes incorporated a number of developments over the original version, including Rolls-Royce Turbomeca engines, sophisticated new electronic defensive aids, and folding rotor blades allowing them to operate from the confines of a ship (in the case of the Royal Navy, HMS Ocean (L12), the UK’s only helicopter carrier).
(Image: Staff Sergeant Mike Harvey/MOD; AH1 in Afghanistan, 2008)
To date, only one Apache AH1, serial number ZJ177, is listed as being out of service. ZJ177 (pictured above) was delivered in 2000 and was written off on September 4, 2008 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The £30 million attack helicopter crashed on take-off from Edinburgh Forward Operating Base, in an incident deemed not to be the result of enemy fire. According to Demobbed, the wrecked gunship was subsequently used as a ground instructional airframe at AAC Wattisham, before being stripped for parts and scrapped in 2015. The above photograph shows ZJ177 and two other Apaches in storage at RAF Shawbury in 2004.
The AgustaWestland Apache AH1 is currently operated by 3 Regt AAC and 4 Regt AAC of the British Army Air Corps’ 16 (Air Assault) Brigade. The type saw heavy combat use during Operation Herrick (Afghanistan) in 2006. By the following year the Daily Telegraph had reported that half the UK’s Apache force were considered not “fit for purpose” and grounded. By 2008, the newspaper further reported that only 20 of the 67 British Apache AH1s were available for combat operations.
(Image: LA(Phot) Bernie Henesy/MOD; Apache operates from HMS Ocean)
Despite the setbacks, Apaches went on to see further service in Afghanistan and later Libya. In June 2011, the Libyan government spuriously claimed to have shot down five Apaches. However, no AH1 combat losses were reported by the Army Air Corps. With the exception of ZJ177, the others are understood to remain in service.