Dutch Upgrading Their AH-64Ds
In August 2009, the US DSCA announced a request from the Netherlands to buy kits that would upgrade their AH-64D Apache attack helicopter fleet, which is seeing significant use in Afghanistan. Dutch AH-64Ds lack the mast-mounted Longbow millimeter-wave radar common on similar models elsewhere, but the requested “AH-64D Block II” upgrade would otherwise move them to the same configuration as the vast majority of the American fleet. It will also gives them more advanced Arrowhead MTADS sensors, color cockpit displays including moving digital maps, updated self-protection suites, and several features designed to improve maintenance and lower operating costs.
That will make coalition operations and maintenance sharing easier in places like Afghanistan. There, the Americans operate their AH-64D fleet with Longbow radars removed, while the British WAH-64Ds have made good use of those radars thanks to their more powerful Rolls Royce engines. All are in high demand thanks to their flexibility, and their 30mm cannon. The question is whether the helicopter block type upgrades will be fielded in time to matter on the ground…
Contracts & Key Events
March 14/11: Boeing receives an $11.1 million firm-fixed-price contract to upgrade 29 Dutch Apache Longbow helicopters from Block I configuration to Block II configuration. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of July 31/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command’s Redstone Arsenal, AL, who manages the contract on behalf of their Foreign Military Sale client (W58RGZ-11-C-0045).
June 24/10: The Dutch MvD announces defense cuts, which include reduced training hours and postponement of AH-64D Apache modernization. Source: Combat Aircraft, Sept. 2010.
Dec 11/09: As an adjunct to the modernization program, the Dutch government has set aside EUR 25-50 million in order to buy guided 70mm rockets, as a more numerous and smaller alternative to existing Hellfire missiles. Netherlands MvD [in Dutch].
Guided rockets are a new and growing field, and this planned purchase fits with on-the-ground tactical imperatives in 2 ways. One is that it quadruples the number of guided weapons on board. Each Hellfire slot can hold up to 4 of Lockheed Martin’s own DAGR rockets instead, for example; a welcome firepower upgrade to helicopters already flying with weight restrictions in high altitude and/or hot conditions. The other fit is with NATO’s policy of minimizing collateral damage, which has seen the Apache’s 30mm gun become its most popular and valued weapon. Some situations do call for more firepower, however, and options like Lockheed Martin’s DAGR, BAE/GD’s APKWS-II, Magellan/Kongsberg’s CVR-7PG, or Elbit/ATK’s GATR-L would fill that important niche without escalating to a full Hellfire warhead.
Oct 28/09: The Dutch MvD confirms the Block II modernization program, and estimates its cost at EUR 116 million (currently about $172 million). The first modernized test aircraft is expected in 2012, and fleet upgrades will be performed from 2013 – 2015. MvD release [in Dutch].
Aug 6/09: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces a formal Dutch request for modification kits to upgrade its 29 AH-64D Apache Block I attack helicopters to Block II configuration, along with associated support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, engineering change proposals, an other support. If a contract is signed, it could be worth an estimated $181 million.
The prime contractor will be the Boeing Corporation of Mesa, AZ, and there are industrial offset agreements proposed in connection with this sale. Implementation will also require 4 contractor representatives in The Netherlands to conducting training for a period of 2 weeks.