Australia greenlit for $3.5 billion Apache buy

Avatar for Dan ParsonsBy Dan Parsons | June 5, 2021

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

Australia is now approved by the U.S. State Department to buy 29 AH-64E Apache gunships to the tune of $3.5 billion. 

The announcement was made June 3 by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). In January, the Australian Ministry of Defence chose the Apache over Bell’s AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter to replace the Airbus Tiger as its new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH).

Australia’s Minister for Defence described the Apache Guardian as “the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option” considered in the selection of a replacement for the Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. Boeing Image

Australia is approved to purchase 29 helicopters, 64 General Electric T700-GE 701D engines and a laundry list of electronics equipment, sensors and weapons. 

“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats, and will enhance interoperability with U.S. forces and other allied forces,” DSCA said in the announcement. “Australia will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defense and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing these Apache aircraft into its armed forces.”

Apache manufacturer Boeing and Lockheed Martin are named in the announcement as prime contractors. Incumbent Airbus made a late-game pitch to replace Australia’s 22-Tiger fleet with new airframes sourced from existing European stock, but lost out to the Apache. Australia’s choice may also push nearby Philippines — weighing whether to buy the Apache or Viper — toward Boeing.

Minister for Defense Linda Reynolds made the announcement Jan. 15 that Australia would purchase Apaches beginning in 2025. The 29 new Apaches should be operational by 2029.

“This new ARH capability will strengthen Australia’s armed reconnaissance force to better shape our strategic environment and deter actions against our national interest,” Reynolds said in January. “Defense considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system. The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defense’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements. By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, Defense will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms.”

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