REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center has accepted a role as the independent technical evaluator for the United Kingdom in an upcoming foreign military sale.

The U.K. will purchase 50 Apache AH-64E aircraft through a new FMS case signed in June 2016, with first delivery scheduled for 2020.

The aircraft will have a unique Defensive Aids System and Windscreen Wash Wipe System, but otherwise will be identical to the U.S. Army configuration. The role as ITE leverages the AMRDEC Aviation Engineering Directorate's core technical competencies and allows the U.S. government to partner with the U.K.

"The selection of AED as the ITE was supported by a 2013 interview conducted by a U.K. team reviewing the technical depth and breadth of AED's expertise, airworthiness processes, and ability to conduct ITE functions," said Ashely Erickson, U.K. ITE team lead. "While using AED as an ITE may seem logical, it has presented unique challenges for the U.K. due to their regulatory requirements."

"The U.K.'s certification regulation requires a complete re-certification of the air system to U.K. standards regardless of whether certification has been previously conducted by another military agency," Erickson said. "Given the U.K.'s eagerness to employ the recent U.K./U.S. DOD Airworthiness Mutual Recognition, the Military Airworthiness Authority approved a pilot program for the Apache to leverage existing airworthiness certification conducted by the U.S. Army."

The U.K. airworthiness structure differs from the U.S. Army because its responsibilities are divided between the Military Airworthiness Authority and Type Airworthiness Authority.

The MAA is responsible for air safety across U.K. Defence and is the regulator, author of airworthiness regulation, and auditor of the TAA. The TAA is an individual responsible for overseeing the airworthiness of a specific aircraft type, often the same person as the Project Team Leader. The TAA responsibilities include defining the airworthiness certification approach, collecting all data associated with the certification program, and presenting the final set of evidence to the MAA. The MAA is then able to review the TAA's outputs and issue a Military Type Certificate.

"The work of the TAA in completing the certification program is not conducted in isolation," said Tim Greges, AED branch chief for Mission Equipment and Foreign Military Sales. "They require the use of an ITE to provide independent analysis and recommendations regarding the designer's supporting evidence. The TAA is then able to make decisions about the adequacy of the data."

Access to tech data is another important consideration. Since AED reviews airworthiness tech data for the U.S., the U.K. is able to leverage the outcome of those reviews from AED ITE and procure a minimal data set to support U.K. activities. Tech data for the program will include a combination of both USG data and U.K. unique data. These efforts will allow the U.K. to take advantage of a large amount of cost savings and benefit from AED's technical knowledge of the Apache.

According to Erickson, AED spent the last two years supporting a requirements review of the U.K.'s Defence Standard 00-970 and the overall certification approach to help ensure a successful program. Although the plan is to accept U.S. Army certification, a crosswalk between U.S. Army and U.K. airworthiness requirements identified some U.K. unique requirements that may entail additional testing and/or analysis to support unique environments.

"The AED ITE will be providing recommendations to the Apache TAA regarding these requirements over the next year," Greges said. "Unlike many FMS cases, AED will not be providing in-country, through-life Airworthiness Release support, but will instead be providing input to the U.K. Release to Service and other U.K. unique documents."

While the initial FMS case funded by the U.K. includes nine years of support from AED as the ITE, the certification approach will involve AED providing recommendations as the ITE through the life of the aircraft.


Editor's note: Ashley Erickson contributed to this article.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.