UPDATED WITH BOEING STATEMENT
The government says it has finalised the deal to acquire 29 new Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to replace the Army’s fleet of 22 Airbus Tiger ARH armed reconnaissance helicopters.
The deal is worth more than $5.5 billion, while the Government says it will also invest up to $500 million to upgrade facilities to support the new Apache helicopters.
That figure is substantially more than the $4 billion price-tag cited in January 2021 when it was announced that the European Tigers would be replaced by American Apaches, and the roughly A$4.5 billion quoted in a June 2021 US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announcement.
In a 9 May release, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this investment was key to the Government’s plan for a safe secure Australia in the face of regional and global uncertainty. “Australia and our region is now in the midst of the most consequential and challenging strategic realignment since the Second World War,” he said.
The Prime Minister said this investment supported local jobs and skills as well as the Australian Defence Force. “The more than $8 billion we’re investing in helicopters and facilities means 290 new jobs on the ground for electricians, mechanics and engineers to support their maintenance, along with hundreds more jobs in the small business supply chain that supports these fleets,” he added.
The Tigers have long been beset with technical problems which limited availability, although many of the issues had been overcome in recent years.
“The Apache is a proven and reliable attack helicopter which is already in use by the United States Government and United Kingdom, and has improved sensors, communications and networking systems, attack capabilities and survivability,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.
In a company statement, Boeing says the government’s formal decision to acquire Apache would provide Australia with a low-risk, fully-integrated, battle-proven capability interoperable with key allies.
The acquisition was supported by an active production line and mature sustainment activities available to international operators through US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) arrangements. That will ensure Apache remains the leading attack reconnaissance capability through 2050 and beyond, the company said.
Boeing Defence Australia Managing Director Scott Carpendale said Boeing would continue to expand industry capability and its supply chain in Australia by selecting Australian suppliers to support this critical program.
“Our Australian industry strategy includes delivering sovereign in-service support for Apache as Boeing Defence Australia has successfully done for the CH-47 Chinook, F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18 Growler and P-8A Poseidon,” he said.
“Further, we will offer additional opportunities for Australian industry including a contract to produce crew doors for the Australian Apaches, as well as all new Apache aircraft orders for the life of the program.”
The first Apache will be delivered from 2025.