The Apache was first deployed in February 2007 as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade in Afghanistan, in total eight Apache AH1s were deployed. The Apaches were drawn from 656 Squadron and 664 Squadron, 9 Regiment Army Air Corps, which is based at RAF Dishforth.
One of the main differences between the British and American deployment, is that the British Apache had been deployed with its longbow radar. This enabled the pilot to manage traffic and fire control within their airspace much better. The biggest issue with Apaches in Afghanistan is the number of them, and initially many have flown for 16 to 18 hours for 8 weeks. Then they would be returned to the UK for 8 weeks of maintenance.
The Apache has quickly proved itself essential in modern warfare, and the Taliban has nicknamed it the ‘Mosquito’. This has resulted in it becoming a prized target, to the point that Apache pilots are treated the same as Special Forces personnel when it comes to their identity. Prince Harry is the exception to this, due to his high profile and the extensive media coverage of him.
The Royal Marines launched an operation to attack a target on 13 January 2007. The target was Jugroom Fort and a force of 200 personnel were due to attack it. After several hours of fighting it was realised Lance Corporal Mathew Ford of 45 Commando Royal Marines had gone missing. Almost instantly, a rescue mission was launched using four volunteers strapped to the stubby wings of an Apache. With their delicate load they could not go faster than 50mph.
On landing, the Apaches came under fire from inside the compound, but another Apache was able to provide some cover as the rescuers retrieved Lance Corporal Ford’s body that was lying in the middle of the compound. Amazingly, not one of the rescuers was injured during the rescue. Later they were all hailed for their bravery.
The Apache is still in great demand in Afghanistan, and more often than not there are not enough Apaches to cover all the operational requests. The British Army only has 67 Apaches, and 55 crews of 2 pilots. The Apache and its crews are still working tirelessly out in Afghanistan in support of allied troops, and will continue to do so until allied forces withdraw.