A U.S. Congressional panel has agreed to the Pentagon’s plan to quickly deliver six Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq. They will be delivered in the summer and will be leased from the U.S. Army to allow training to begin with Iraqi army aviation. The helicopters are AH-64Ds upgraded to a partial AH-64E configuration. The notification to Congress was lodged on January 23, and was followed by another four days later covering the $4.8 billion purchase of 24 new-build AH-64E Apache Guardians to be delivered over a three-year period. The second request includes 480 Lockheed Martin AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, Hydra unguided rockets, and numerous items of avionics, countermeasures and support equipment.
The lawmakers’ nod for the AH-64 comes after Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, lifted his objection to the sale. He had wanted assurances that Iraq would not use the Apaches against civilians. Approval comes at a time when the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki is engaged in renewed fighting against militants in Anbar province. The timescale of the Apache delivery means that they will not have any immediate effect on the fighting, but does come after urgent calls from al-Maliki’s government for more supplies of both weaponry and intelligence from the U.S. Those calls expedited the delivery of 75 Hellfire missiles to Iraq, the weapons being delivered last month for use with Iraq’s armed Caravans and King Air 350s. Another batch of Hellfires is to be delivered this spring, as well as a number of small UAVs (10 ScanEagles and 48 Ravens).
According to the notification to Congress, the initial Apache lease deal also includes the sale of three spare General Electric T700-GE-701D engines, 152 AGM-114K Hellfires, 14 M299 Hellfire launchers and 12 M261 rocket launchers, plus various avionics and countermeasures systems. Complete with spares, support and training, the deal is estimated to be worth $1.37 billion.
On January 23 Congress also received a notification of plans to sell a further 500 AGM-114K/R Hellfire missiles, plus associated equipment, to Iraq. This is a “replenishment” sale separate from the missile requests made in connection with the two Apache deals.