Dutch Defence Ministry details AH-64D upgrade program

By Nathan Gain

The Netherlands’ Ministry of Defence wants to modernize the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) fleet of 28 aircraft AH-64D Apache combat helicopters. After about 20 years, they are technically and operationally outdated. The aircraft are being thoroughly modernized so that the can continue to operate Apaches until 2050, Dutch State Secretary for Defence Barbara Visser reported on May 1 in a letter to the country’s House of Representatives.

Dutch Defence Ministry confirms AH 64D upgrade program 001 A RNLAF AH-64D at Helidays 2017

The Apache is especially important in joint operations with other air force units, and provides firepower and observation capabilities during land operations. However, technical and operational factors make the deployment of the helicopters more difficult. This already leads to operational restrictions in circumstances with high threat levels. The limitations are increasing because of rapid technological developments,” stated the Dutch MoD. 

Modernization is not only important, said the MoD, because the defense of its own and allied territory is now more prominent. Also, deployment during missions that promote the international legal order must be guaranteed. Furthermore, the US Army, the most important Apache user, is stopping support of the Dutch AH-64Ds, because the service is modernizing its Apaches to the AH-64E standard. 

As a result, the costs for maintaining the outdated D version are rising sharply. A cost-benefit analysis shows that participation in the so-called remanufacture program is the most obvious option, and also the most advantageous. 

By modernizing to the E-model, the Dutch Apache will remain almost identical to that of other users. This makes the aircraft completely interoperable when deployed in a coalition context. This also allows the Netherlands to cooperate even more closely in preparation and maintenance,” the MoD added

Remanufacture means rebuilding and overhauling the existing AH-64D helicopters. They are equipped with new fuselages, transmissions, rotor blades, and the power of the engines is increased. If everything goes according to plan, the RNLAF will again have brand-new aircraft from 2022 onwards. 

The modernization costs between € 250 million and € 1 billion (US$300 mn to US$ 1.2 bn), while the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on February 20, 2018, cleared a potential $1,1 billion FMS for the upgrade/remanufacture of 28 AH-64D Block II helicopters. 

The Netherlands then requested the possible sale of items and services to support the upgrade/remanufacture of 28 AH-64D Block II Apache Attack Helicopters to the AH-64E configuration to include upgrading 51 remaining T700-GE-701C Engines to T700-GE-701D (42 engines to be installed, 9 spares), 17 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radar (FCR) and subcomponents, 28 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sights (MTADS)/AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors (PNVS), 28 AN/APR-48B Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers (MRFI), and 70 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) plus Multi-Mode Receiver.