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The Philippines government has been given the go-ahead to buy new attack helicopters from both Bell and Boeing, but whether that country will purchase the AH-1Z Viper or AH-64E Apache is up in the air.
In dual announcements on April 30, the U.S. State Department approved potential foreign military sales for six of both helicopters to the Philippines, which plans to modernize its attack rotorcraft fleet, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announcements.
In total, the State Department approved $1.95 billion in attack helicopter sales to the Philippines, but that country is considering buying only one or the other, according to the DSCA announcements.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South-East Asia,” the DSCA announcements read. “The proposed sale will assist the Philippines in developing and maintaining strong self-defense, counterterrorism, and critical infrastructure protection capabilities.”
The Philippines is considering both aircraft to serve a single role, but the potential deals vary wildly, with the Apache sale potentially more than three times as expensive as the one for Vipers.
Six AH-1Z Vipers, 14 General Electric T-700-401C engines, sensors, weapons, ammunition, spare parts and support services come to $450 million in potential sales for Bell. The approval includes seven Honeywell Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation (EGI) systems, six AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles; and 26 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guided rockets.
Boeing, on the other hand, could potentially receive up to $1.5 billion for six Apaches, 18 T-701D engines and related equipment, weapons, parts and services. The approved Apache purchase request contains a much more comprehensive list of sensors, radar, communication systems and munitions.
That potential sale includes 15 Honeywell GPS systems, 200 Hellfire missiles, a dozen M36E9 Hellfire captive air training missiles, 300 APKWS kits and 1,700 rockets guidance sections, and tens of thousands of rounds of machine-gun ammunition.
DSCA announcements do not represent final sales, which must be negotiated between the requesting country and the manufacturer. The Philippines can buy all or neither of the approved aircraft and equipment quantities. The country is reportedly also considering the Turkish TAI/AugustaWestland (now Leonardo Helicopters) T129 ATAK.
All three helicopters are purpose-built attack platforms with tandem, dual-seat cockpits and twin engines. The AH-64E variant is the most-modern version of the Apache, with enhanced weapons, avionics and engines. It also is capable of controlling unmanned aerial systems like the RQ-7 Shadow or MQ-1C Gray Eagle.
The smaller AH-1Z is an upgraded version of the AH-1W Super Cobra and as the primary attack helicopter of the U.S. Marine Corps is optimized to operate from ships.