What is the Attack Helicopter Display Team (AHDT)?

1.0    Introduction

This article provides an overview of the British Army’s Attack Helicopter Display Team (AHDT).

2.0    What is the Purpose of the AHDT?

The AHDT displays (almost) every year throughout the season at a number of national air shows using commentary and pyrotechnics to give the general public a flavour of what it is like to operate as part of the Attack Helicopter Force on operation.

3.0    Where is the AHDT Based?

The AHDT is located at the former Royal Air Force base RAF Wattisham, Suffolk, now known as Wattisham Airfield or AAC Wattisham.

First in use from 1913 and used by the RAF from April 1939, it was a US Army Air Forces base during World War Two, reverting back the RAF shortly after. After the end of the Cold War, the base was transferred to the British Army in September 1993. It soon became a major Army airfield.

4.0    Organisation of the AHDT

The AHDT is made up of pilots, engineers and ground crew from the Army Air Corps (AAC) Attack Helicopter Force (AHF).

The AHDT draws aircraft from 3 Regiment AAC and 4 Regiment AAC, part of the AHF within the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC):

  • 3 Regiment AAC:
    • 643 Squadron.
    • 662 Squadron.
    • 663 Squadron.
  • 4 Regiment AAC:
    • 656 Squadron.
    • 664 Squadron.

5.0    AHDT Support Units

Also located at AAC Wattisham is:

  • 7 Aviation Support Battalion REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).
    • Has been known as 7 Air Assault Battalion.
    • Maintains a helicopter repair facility with worldwide capability.HQ Company.
    • 71 Aviation Company (Aviation Support Company).
    • 72 Aviation Company (Contingency Company).
  • 132 Aviation Supply Squadron RLC (Royal Logistics Corps).

6.0    Brief History

The AHDT was first developed around 2008/2009 at Middle Wallop with a non-operational focus, although it quickly took on a more operational focus. It has gone through several iterations of single aircraft with pyrotechnics and a pair of aircraft with pyrotechnics.

The crew and aircraft of the AHDT remain operational throughout the display calendar.

For the 2015 season, the AHDT performed with a pair of Apaches, but have since reduced to a solo display.

Due to operational commitments the AHDT was unable to perform any displays in 2018, with only four in 2019 and, in the last few seasons, has been the AAC’s only air show display team (This Is Flight, 2019).

“AHDT are the second UK military helicopter team to make a comeback this year: in January it was announced that the Royal Navy Black Cats will also be returning, having not displayed since 2016.” (This Is Flight, 2019).

7.0    Outline of the Display

The display may consist of:

  • An AH-64D Apache role demonstration, often synchronised to ground pyrotechnics.
  • Simulation of strikes on an enemy target.
  • 360 degree mid-air turns to show the handling capabilities of the aircraft.
  • 90 degrees nose up manoeuvre.
  • Cork screw manoeuvre.
  • The 2017 display included hovering at “crowd-centre before there was an explosion and a huge impressive wall of fire behind the Apache.” (Military Airshows, 2018).

Further information on the routines in the display can be found in the Useful Links section below.

Air shows the AHDT performed at in 2019 included:

  • Duxford Air Festival, IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire.
  • RAF Cosford Air Show, Shropshire.
  • Royal Navy International Air Day. RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset.
  • Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire.

8.0    What is the Apache Helicopter?

The Boeing AH-64 Apache is an American twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a crew of two. It originally began life as the Model 77 developed by Hughes Helicopters for the US Army’s Advanced Attack Helicopter programme to replace the AH-1 Cobra.

The prototype was first flown on 30 September 1975, with the US Army selecting it over the Bell YAH-63 in 1976. Full production was approved in 1982, with the first aircraft entering service in April 1986.

The advanced AH-64D Apache Longbow was first delivered in March 1997, with over 2,000 of the aircraft being produced by 2013.

Although the US is the primary operator of the aircraft is it used by many others including Greece, Japan, Israel, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. It is produced under licence in the UK as the AugustaWestland Apache.

In service from 2001, the Apache helicopter is the British Army’s primary strike asset in support of ground forces. It is a battlefield helicopter providing a variety of very unique and very influential capabilities to the ground forces.

The aircraft is currently being upgraded, with the AH-64E model due off the production lines in 2020, and in service with the British Army in 2022.

Specifications of the aircraft include:

  • Maximum speed: 330 KPH.
  • Engines: 2 x 850SHP Rolls Royce RTM-332.
  • Weight: 7,746 kg.
  • Crew: two.
  • Range: 475 km.
  • Length: 17.57 metres.
  • Main rotor diameter: 14.63 metres.
  • Height: 4.9 metres.
  • Armament:
    • 16 x Hellfire missiles.
    • 76 x 2.75 CRV-7 rockets.
    • 1,200 x 300 mm cannon rounds.
    • 4 x air-to-air missiles.

9.0    Useful Links

10.0  References

Military Airshows. (2018) No Attack Helicopter Display Team for 2018. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.military-airshows.co.uk/press18/aacapacheprjan2018.htm. [Accessed: 12 August, 2019].

This Is Flight. (2019) Attack Helicopter Display Team 2019 Schedule. Available from World Wide Web: http://thisisflight.net/2019/03/26/attack-helicopter-display-team-2019-schedule/. [Accessed: 12 August, 2019].

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