ME fertile for Boeing Apaches

 - December 7, 2006, 10:58 AM

The handover of the first of 16 Boeing AH-64Ds for Kuwait on August 11 highlighted the importance of the type to Boeing’s business in the region, not just through sales of new aircraft but also through the AH-64A to AH-64D upgrade program. “The Middle East has always been strong for us–the best outside the U.S.,” said Roger Krone, senior vice president army systems of Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems business unit. “We predict that the Apache conversion business will be worth more than $1 billion to us in the next five years.”

As well as delivering new Apaches to Kuwait, Boeing is currently converting Egyptian A-models to D standard, and expects to sign a deal within weeks with the UAE for a similar program. The conversion deal will cover all 30 AH-64As currently in UAE service, and will include Longbow radar for each aircraft and the latest Lockheed Martin Arrowhead modernized target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensor.

Boeing is also in discussions to forge a deal to convert the AH-64As of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The AH-64A has been out of production for a while, and, as the numbers of U.S. Army A-models dwindles (down to just over 100 at present), so the older-standard aircraft become more difficult to support. Boeing is also looking at taking another stab at the on-off Turkish attack helicopter program, dependent on some changes to the terms of the request for proposals.

Boeing is highly active marketing other products in the region. Here in the UAE it is working to sell the Boeing 737-based Wedgetail AEW solution to the airforce. Although all sales are treated on a case-by-case basis, the question of release for this high-tech platform in the region has been eased by the sale of the system to Turkey. Boeing is also actively pursuing a possible tanker sale in the UAE with its 767 Tanker/Transport.

In Saudi Arabia Boeing is supporting the existing F-15C/D/S fleet with a series of software sustainment upgrades, but is also quietly hopeful that new aircraft may be purchased. The company is saying little more, except to intimate that any purchase of Eurofighter Typhoons or Dassault Rafales would not necessarily rule out further Eagle buys.

Kuwait is a target for the Super Hornet. Already an operator of the earlier C/D model Hornet–now out of production– Kuwait has loosely outlined a need for new fighters. Boeing feels the F/A-18E/F is an ideal candidate given its commonality with the earlier machines.