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STDE24 ~ AH-64E Apache Spearheads NATO Exercise

An Apache AH-64E attack helicopter is refuelled out on the apron by soldiers from the 4 Regiment AAC to be prepared for flight for Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER 24, 23 April 2024 [Crown Copyright: Cpl Aaron J Stone]

A fleet of British Army and RAF helicopters, including AH-64E Apache, flies to Finland and Estonia as spearhead for NATO Exercise STDE24.


Press Release, Whitehall, 24 April 2024: A fleet of British Army and RAF helicopters fly to Finland and Estonia today to train alongside NATO allies as part of Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER 24. It includes the British Army’s new state-of-the-art Apache attack helicopters on their first NATO deployment. The attack helicopters will join a series of exercises in Finland and Estonia, training with Estonian, US, and Polish counterparts.

Picture shows Chinook on left, Apache centre and Wildcat on the right [Crown Copyright: AS2 Jason Barfield]

The Army’s new Apache attack helicopters fly to Finland today, ahead of a series of training missions as part of one of the largest NATO exercises since the end of the Cold War. They form part of a fleet of more than a dozen helicopters setting off for Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER in Finland and Estonia today (Tues 23 April) from Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk. Nearly 500 aircrew, engineers and groundcrew will be in tow. The deployment is a potent combination of Army Air Corps’ Apache and Wildcat helicopters and RAF Chinook support helicopters and will see the UK use the RAF’s most up-to-date helicopters, with a full range of Army’s capabilities. As they take to the skies, some 130 vehicles – from fuel tankers to Land Rovers – are travelling by road and rail to the Baltics, coinciding with the NATO Alliance’s 75th year.

Picture shows Apache flying with RAF Chinook on the ground [Crown Copyright: AS2 Jason Barfield]

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “National security is the first duty of government, which is why we have the capabilities and international alliances in place to protect the UK from both current and future threats.

“In a more dangerous world, this deployment shows that the UK is once again demonstrating how we improve NATO’s ability to meet the challenge of modern threats.

“The cutting-edge new Apache helicopters will join twenty thousand British soldiers, sailors and aviators on Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER, sending an unmistakable message of our commitment to the Alliance.”

Picture shows Wildcat flying with two Apache aircraft on the ground [Crown Copyright: AS2 Jason Barfield]

The Apache AH-64E offers improved flying performance and new sensors and communications systems that vastly improve its battlefield performance over the Apache Mk.1 it replaces. On their first NATO deployment the Apaches will take part in Exercise ARROW in Finland, flying strike missions in support of large-scale Finnish Army training. All three helicopter types will then fly and train together in Estonia under the command of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response force, on Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE.

Both SWIFT RESPONSE and ARROW form part of the larger scale STEADFAST DEFENDER 24, which is testing and refining NATO’s plans for reinforcing European defences against a near-peer adversary. Some 20,000 British personnel are involved, among 90,000 troops from all 32 members of the alliance.

Pictured ~ Chinook flying in front of a Apache [Crown Copyright: AS1 Harris Williams]

British airborne forces are training with their Estonian, Polish and US counterparts on Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE to practise seizing a foothold against armed opposition. Air assault operations will see troops and equipment lifted by Chinooks, with the Wildcats’ surveillance equipment working with the Apaches’ advanced suite of sights and sensors to find and strike targets on the battlefield.

The British Army has purchased 50 Boeing-built Apache AH-64Es, with 3 Regiment Army Air Corps the first of the two frontline Apache regiments to begin operating the new aircraft in 2022.

Pictured ~ Chinooks, Apaches and Wildcats on the runway [Crown Copyright: AS1 Harris Williams]

Aviation Task Force 1 Commander Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lambert said: “This is one of the largest overseas helicopter deployments we have done outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, as it provides a powerful contribution to support NATO training on STEADFAST DEFENDER. Led by the state-of-the-art Apache AH-64E, the capabilities we deliver are battle-winning and contribute fully to the combined arms battle.

“The significance of what we are doing is matched by the demanding nature of the deployment – we’re deploying helicopters and everything we need to operate them across Europe, to build relationships with our allies, understand their capabilities and procedures, to then plan and carry out missions together.”

Equipped with a diverse fleet of helicopters, it offers essential capabilities for transport, reconnaissance, and combat operations, tailored to the specific demands of each mission.


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