Dutch Say Farewell To AH-64D Apache Helicopters

AH-64D Q-29 making a 360 turn. Still visible underneath the front cockpit are the SFOR (Stabilization Force) titles it carried during one of its deployments. (All images, credit: Author)

After almost 25 years, the old AH-64D ‘Delta’ will be replaced by the Echo version, also called the ‘Guardian’.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force is about to retire its last AH-64D Apaches operated by the Gilze Rijen-based 301 Squadron. Thirty Delta’s were ordered by the Dutch government in May 1995. After leasing 12 AH-64As from the U.S. Army the first Deltas were delivered in May 1998; four years later the last AH-64D was delivered to the Dutch.

In the end, 20 were flown by 301 Squadron from Gilze Rijen Air Base in the southern part of the country and eight were operated by 302 Squadron in the U.S., at Fort Hood, Texas, for training. They were very successfully deployed to the former Yugoslavia, Djibouti, Iraq and Afghanistan. The last foreign deployment was with four Apaches in Mali between May 2014 and January 2017. Unfortunately two Apaches were lost. One, the Q20, crashed in August 2004 in Afghanistan. A second one, the Q15, crashed in March 2014 in Mali, unfortunately killing both pilots.

One of the two Apaches returning from its farewell flight on Jan. 16, 2024, being ship Q-29 hoovering in front of the ATC tower above the freshly fallen snow.

After almost 25 years the old Deltas will be replaced by the Echo version, also called the Guardian, consisting of the 28 completely stripped and remanufactured current airframes. The first two AH-64Es, Q-37 and Q-38, were flown to the Netherlands with a C-17 last month for acceptance on Woensdrecht and these renewed Echos with their stronger engines, larger blades, better equipment and radar-dome on top should serve till 2050.

AH-64D starting its official farewell flight from Gilze Rijen on Jan. 16, 2024, using callsign ‘Apache 01’

On Jan. 11, 2024, an official AH-64D farewell event for current and former 301 Squadron staff, including a short demonstration flight, took place at Gilze Rijen Air Base. Unfortunately, 15 min prior the demo, bad weather rolled in, reducing the demo to just a few low passes with a flare drop. Several days later on Jan. 16, 2024, a farewell flight took place with two Apaches, Q-1 and Q-29, making a flyby at most current and former Dutch bases like Eindhoven, Volkel, Soesterberg and Woensdrecht. The final unofficial training/transfer flight is scheduled around Jan. 24 – 25, 2024.

Unfortunately low clouds prevented the Apache to fly a full demo on January the 11th during the official farewell event. Two days prior during its practice run it was still clear blue skies and here ‘HAWK01’ releases some flares.
About Edwin Schimmel
Edwin Schimmel is a freelance photographer based near Utrecht city in The Netherlands. His first article and photo publications date back to the mid 90’s in Dutch aviation magazines like Onze Luchtmacht and De Vliegende Hollander. Later on he also got published in international aviation magazines like Air Forces Monthly and Combat Aircraft. Since 2000 he works in the Air Traffic Control at the Royal Netherlands Air Force. He reported from many bases around Europe but also in the US and Japan.