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Wattisham Apache helicopters make way for new Army model


Army Air Corps attack helicopters used in Afghanistan and Libya have made their last operational flight more than 20 years after taking to the skies.

Apache Mark 1s of 656 Squadron landed at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk on Monday after a farewell tour.

Wattisham-based units had flown the helicopter, which is being replaced by the Apache AH-64E, on operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

Prince Harry flew Apaches from Wattisham during tours in the Army.

Locations with links to the Mark 1 had featured on the farewell flight.

An Army spokesman said flypast sites included Colchester, Essex, where troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade are based.

Prince Harry

The Duke of Sussex served as a helicopter pilot in the British Army between 2012 and 2013

He said the Mark 1, which entered service in 2001, had “proved itself” as a “battle-winning asset”.

The Army said in October that the Apache AH-64E had passed its battlefield test after an exercise.

Manoeuvres involved 8,000 troops working out of 22 locations across south-west England, the West Midlands and Wales.

Simulated strike missions had been completed in Northumberland and Kent – and 3 Regiment Army Air Corps units based at Wattisham had tested the maintenance and operation of the AH-64E.

One senior officer called the Boeing-built AH-64E “revolutionary”.

The new Apache helicopter during its testing process

The Boeing-built AH-64E helicopter has been described as ‘revolutionary’

The Army spokesman added: “The AH-64E features improved flying performance and new sensors and communications systems that vastly improve its ability to find and strike the enemy on the battlefield.”

BBC Radio Suffolk’s aviation expert, Roger Smith, said the AH-64E looked similar to the Mark 1.

But he said the new helicopter was a “lot different” internally and had “absolutely tremendous” capability.

He told BBC Radio Suffolk: “It’s like going from an Amiga 500 to the latest Apple Mac or Microsoft.”

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