The first of the Netherlands’ new Apache AH-64E attack helicopters have returned to service after undergoing an update and modernisation programme, and are expected to remain operational until 2050, according to the country’s Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Announcing the development in its weekly update, the Netherlands MOD stated that the first four remanufactured aircraft were now returned to operational capability with the Royal Netherlands’ Air Force 301 Squadron, with a further 16 due to be updated in the years ahead.

Six AH-64E aircraft are currently being used for training purposes at Texas Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood) in the United States, with a further two updated platforms to be delivered in 2025.

The Netherlands is upgrading its legacy AH-64D fleet to the ‘Echo’ (E) Version 6 standard and operates a fleet of 28 airframes, delivered between 1998-2002. A 2022 statement from Boeing said that all 28 AH-64Ds would be upgraded to the Version 6 standard.

In October 2022, the first of the remanufactured AH-64Es was handed over to the RNLAF.

The Apache attack helicopters, manufactured by US prime Boeing, are widely operated by Nato militaries, with the UK declaring the first of its own AH-64E aircraft operational in Q4 2023.

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Netherlands defence spending spike following Russia-Ukraine war

GlobalData analysis of Dutch defence spending shows that since the return of high-intensity warfare to Europe, the Netherlands has made a more determined effort to modernise its military and better share the burden of Nato’s Article 5 collective defence initiative.

While the Netherlands only spent $12.8bn on defence at the start of the decade, 2024 is expected to be a consequential year, with $22.8bn earmarked for military spending, representing a 41.8% increase from 2023.

Analysis of the Netherlands’ defence spending from 2020 to 2024 shows a compound annual growth rate of 15.5%, indicating that the increase in military budget, to some extent, predated Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.