The British Army’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters could be cut back or even scrapped outright, defence sources have admitted.
Britain’s Apache gunships have been in use since 2001, seeing action in Afghanistan - where current pilots include Prince Harry - and in Libya.
Despite the helicopters’ successes on the frontline, defence sources suggested that the Army Air Corps fleet of 66 Apaches could eventually be cut to around 50 aircraft fit for operations.
Britain’s American-made AH-64D helicopters face becoming redundant because the US has decided to stop using the AH-64D model and adopt a newer variant, the AH-64E.
That means essential technical support for the British Apache fleet will be withdrawn from 2017.
As a result, ministers must decide whether to upgrade some or all of the British helicopters to the new US standard, or to replace them outright.
Defence officials and Army officers are finalising their assessment of the technical options in an exercise entitled the Apache Capability Sustainment Programme, or AH CSP. Officials are due to present ministers with a list of detailed options in the New Year, with final decisions expected in 2014.
Colonel Andrew Cash, the commander of the army's attack helicopter force, set out the options for the Capability Sustainment Programme in a recent public lecture. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Daily Telegraph website.