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Not my usual Lakenheath pics - Apaches!

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Hi gents,


No, it's not a run over to Lakenheath, or even Mildenhall, but the results from a few evenings at somewhere a lot closer, actually just a few miles over the fields - Wattisham airfield. The airfield is a former RAF fast jet base, operating the last of the RAF F-4s until 1992. It was then handed over to the army, specifically the helicopter units coming out of Germany. Since 2007 it has been the main operating base of the British variant of the Apache - the WAH-64D. However, a few years ago it was decided to wind down the WAH-64 which required a very UK specific logistics chain for a relatively small fleet, started at 67 and was cut to 50 a few years ago - all sounds very familiar, the bases former residents of UK Spey engined F-4s being a classic case. It was decided to go back to the US standard aircraft with the advantages of scale and 50 US spec AH-64Es were ordered, with some non-UK specific parts like the radome and M-TADS being recycled into new airframes from the US production line. Existing WAH-64D's have been withdrawn and shipped over to the US, presumably Mesa, where the Boeing Apache assembly is carried out. This means that the UK available Apache force has shrunk to low levels in the last couple of years, with around 14 of the old WAH-64D/AH1s available for operations as of the current time - not good timing as the new AH-64E is not operational either. The first pair of AH-64Es were airlifted to the UK as far back as November 2020 with new pairs arriving every couple of months or so. Despite UK testing being conducted in the US well before aircraft were delivered to the UK it took well over a year before they even flew a AH-64E here in the UK, the first flight being flown out of Wattisham back in December, a full 13 months after delivery. Not sure why it took so long, and even now, over six months later they've still only flown about 8/9 of the aircraft delivered, with 19 in the UK as of last week, with three flown to Mildenhall in a C-5 a fortnight ago. 


Anyway, here's a few pics I've managed to get so far, keeping in mind Wattisham isn't the busiest or the most accessible airfield locally. Unlike Lakenheath or Mildenhall, Wattisham doesn't get a lot of visitors with cameras although with a bunch of new helicopters finally taking to the air that may well change. I'm normally left alone by security, which by UK standards is actually quite visible, as they know me pretty well up there by now.


First opportunity was just sunset back in April as a pair of the new AH-64Es flew late. Note these now appear to have gone back to the US spec Hydra rockets rather than the CRV-7s with the rounded pods with have used on the WAH-64s.










Then last week a singleton landing the opposite direction.






Another new one during a fine evening earlier this week. This one has only flown for a week or so and hasn't had anything added to the wings yet, which tends to make a Apache look a bit underwhelming!






Still a number of the WAH-64D/AH1s operating but numbers are low and if they're called to operate in Eastern Europe now is not a good time!












Hope to catch a few more before the summer evenings draw in!




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Great pictures!  Those are some of the cleanest looking Apaches I've ever seen.  Compare to US Army examples that look downright hideous once the CARC paint starts to weather.


I'm a bit surprised that those new Echo's don't have the upwards discharging exhaust suppressors fitted.   This was designed to minimize a vulnerability to MANPADS discovered during OIF and I would have thought it would be standard on all Apaches by now. 

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Hi all/Bee,


Thanks for the kind words. No further updates at the moment as the weather has been a bit grey in the evenings. Your question about the exhausts is one that I've wondered for many years and I've never found a answer from somebody who could say why with any authority. I realize the UK military is permanently short of funding but even allowing for that I can't believe we would not fit that mod purely for cost reasons so I can only assume that there must be a operational reason we don't do it - whatever that may be. I do recall reading somewhere - and I can't remember where - that there was reason along the lines of deflecting the hot exhaust up into the rotor blades is considered a bad option. I have no idea how valid that is, or even if it is the real reason as many operators seem to have followed the US Army and applied the upward exhaust mod. 


If I ever find out I will post it up!



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