Since 1918 and the formation of the RAF, the British Army has sought its own dedicated close support capability. This finally entered the Army Air Corps (AAC) order of battle in 2004 with the arrival of the WAH-6D Apache Longbow. The AAC had been arming its helicopters since the service’s establishment in its modern form in 1957, even if that was a Sterling poked out the door of a Skeeter. The arrival of the Scout saw heavier weapons, including guided weapons, mounted on the AAC’s machines but it was the Lynx and its TOW anti-tank missiles that gave the British Army the means to halt the Soviet Horde. Meanwhile, across Europe, armies sought an attack helicopter – what the popular press call a ‘gunship’ – as an alternative to the US Apache and Europe’s helicopter builders proposed types such as the Fokker/VFW/Westland P.277, Agusta A129, Eurocopter Tiger, Westland WG.44, WG.45 and WG.47 types for consideration.
The General Staff and the Helicopter examines these alternatives to the AH-64 Apache from the British Army’s perspective, drawing on previously unpublished material from HM Government and company archives to describe how the AAC’s doctrine changed from the agile, small and stealthy Agusta A129 and WG.44 of GST.3971 to the large and tough Apache of SR(A).428. This change saw the resulting procurement process become a foregone conclusion but rules of procurement saw the Cobra Venom, LHX, Mangusta, Rooivalk and Tiger up against the General Staff’s favourite; Westland’s WAH-64D Apache. Lavishly illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs and drawings, including original artwork by Luciano Alviani, The General Staff and the Helicopter tells the story of how the British Army acquired the most formidable close support helicopter on earth as its long sought after organic close support platform.