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British Army’s new Apache attack helicopter in largest exercise since Cold War

The British Army’s new Apache AH-64E attack helicopter is leading the charge in NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War, marking a significant moment for the UK’s defence capabilities.

Aviation Task Force 1 (ATF-1), an amalgamation of Army Air Corps Apaches, Wildcat reconnaissance helicopters and Royal Air Force Chinook support helicopters, has embarked on a mission to Finland and Estonia for Exercise Steadfast Defender 24 this week.

According to the Ministry of Defence: “ATF-1, under the command of 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, is kept at very high readiness to respond to international crises.

“It provides the full range of helicopters’ lift, find and attack capabilities from across Joint Aviation Command, with the nature of the mission dictating the number and type of aircraft deployed.”

A fleet of nine Apache, four Wildcat and three Chinook helicopters, all part of the Steadfast Defender operation, gathered at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk for take-off on Tuesday morning (23 Apr).

In addition, some 130 vehicles ranging from fuel tankers to Land Rovers – are making their way by road and rail to the Baltics, accompanied by the majority of the 450 aircrew, engineers and groundcrew that operate the helicopters.

In a first for NATO, the new AH-64E variant Apaches will participate in Exercise Arrow in Finland, executing strike missions in support of large-scale Finnish Army training.

Under the command of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response force, all three helicopter types will be operating together in Estonia.

Exercise Swift Response is seeing British airborne forces training with their Estonian, Polish and US counterparts to practise seizing a foothold against armed opposition.

In support of ground troops, air assault operations will involve troops and equipment being lifted by Chinooks, while the Wildcats’ surveillance equipment will work in tandem with the Apaches’ sensors and weaponry to locate and strike targets.