Saudi Arabia has begun receiving the first of its new AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters from Boeing, images posted online in early September appear to show.
According to these pictures, at least three AH-64E helicopter have arrived in the kingdom having been transported from Boeing’s Mesa production facility in Arizona aboard an Antonov An-124 ‘Condor’ strategic transport aircraft. Saudi media has reported that the helicopters’ arrival coincided with the graduation of the first pilots and maintainers.
Boeing had not responded to requests for comment by IHS Jane’s at the time of writing.
Details of the Saudi AH-64E procurement have not been made public, but IHS Jane’s understands that the Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) has ordered 36 AH-64Es, the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) has ordered 12, and the Saudi Royal Guard is looking to buy 10. Combined with the 12 AH-64A/D helicopters already fielded by the RSLF, these orders will make Saudi Arabia the largest Apache operator outside the United States.
While Boeing has declined to comment on the Saudi contracts, a tour of the company’s Mesa facility in June revealed a number of RSLF helicopters in various stages of production. At that time, a spokesman said that the RSLF would receive its helicopters first, with deliveries for the SANG set to start in fiscal year 2015. He made no mention of the Saudi Royal Guard.
Saudi Arabia’s AH-64E procurement is part of a wider build-up of its rotary-winged capabilities that includes contracts for 24 Boeing AH-6i Little Bird light attack and reconnaissance helicopters and 24 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks for the SANG. As well, 12 MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) MD 530F Little Bird observation and light helicopters are thought to have been delivered to the RSLF in 2013.