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Keeping the Apache ready to take on the Taliban

May 27, 2011

Behind every battle-winning Apache in Afghanistan is a team of unsung heroes working tirelessly to ensure the British Army’s gunship is fully serviced, fuelled and fitted with the fire power to take on the Taliban.

An Apache undergoes a thorough service at Wattisham. Picture: Steve Dock, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

While specialist support crews in theatre conduct the day-to-day maintenance on the hi-tech helicopter, the aircraft also has a legion of engineering experts poised for action in the UK.

Based at Attack Helicopter HQ in Wattisham, a highly-skilled group of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) craftsmen work alongside civilian contractors to run a Depth Support Unit (DSU) – an organisation charged with keeping the Apache fleet fit for flight.

Whenever an aircraft clocks up 600 flying hours it is booked into the state-of-the-art service centre to be stripped down to its bare frame and meticulously cleaned and inspected for wear and tear or damage. Parts are then repaired or replaced before the helicopter is rebuilt and sent back into service.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Christian Rouse, the man responsible for overseeing the movements of every Apache on behalf of the Joint Helicopter Force, said:

“Afghanistan is the priority and they’re flying a lot of hours out there. It’s always busy, there’s always another op on. They go out for seven to eight weeks then come back here and go into depth service. Then about 60 to 65 days later they’ll go back to the regiment.”

Up to ten Apaches at a time can be housed in DSU’s enormous hangar, where they will move sequentially along a pulse line of nine stands, spending roughly nine days at each.

Technical experts repair and replace worn or damaged parts in the Depth Support Unit's huge hangar. Picture: Steve Dock, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

Common rectifications made by the unit include removing corrosion, replacing worn nuts, bolts and valves, and soldering cracks to joins on the airframe. A joint Service effort, the Army delegation is partnered at Wattisham with the Royal Navy’s Mobile Aircraft Support Unit (MASU), specialists in helicopter repairs and fixing breakages caused by enemy bullets:

“They also have a section based in theatre to mend any damage sustained out there,” explained WO1 Rouse. “MASU patch up the aircraft to keep it flying but when they do a repair it’s usually permanent. They are awesome.”

This article is taken from the January 2011 edition of ‘Soldier’ – Magazine of the British Army. To read the full article, click HERE, on on either picture above.

Report by Sharon Kean on the Defence News website.

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