Two AH-1Z Vipers with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 “Gunfighters” fly during a live-fire demonstration on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 1. The unit conducted the demonstration as a part of HMLA-369’s 45th Anniversary celebration and family day. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jake M.T. McClung/Released)
The State Department has cleared the Czech Republic to buy more than $1 billion in Bell AH-1Z attack helicopters and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks.
Larger of the two separate authorizations, announced May 6 by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is for $800 million. That will buy the Czech government 12 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk’s — the most up-to-date version of the ubiquitous utility helicopter — eight GE T700 engines and a laundry list of associated sensors, avionics systems, weapons and support.
For another $205 million, the Czech government will get four Bell AH-1Z advanced Cobra attack helicopters, eight GE T700 engines, eight Honeywell embedded GPS systems with inertial navigation and 14 AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles.
“The Czech Republic is considering either the UH-60M or the UH-1Y/AH-1Z to replace its aging Mi-24 helicopters,” according to the DSCA announcement. “The Czech Republic intends to use these helicopters to modernize its armed forces and strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats. This will contribute to the Czech Republic's military goal of updating its capabilities while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and NATO allies.”
The Czech Republic will become the third foreign military sales customer for the UH-1Y/AH-1Z, but the first NATO country to fly the updated Huey and/or Cobra, which are manufactured by Bell with 85 percent commonality. Pakistan and Bahrain already operate the aircraft, according to Marine Corps Light Attack Program Manager Col. David Walsh.
The U.S. Marine Corps has transitioned entirely to the four-blade, twin-engine UH-1Y “Venom” and is in the process of replacing its fleet of AH-1W Super Cobras with the AH-1Z “Viper.” Bell will continue to deliver the AH-1Z through 2022, Walsh said on May 6 at the Navy’s League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, D.C.
For FMS customers that do not need a brand-new, souped-up H-1 Yankee or Zulu, the Marine Corps’ old AH-1W Super Cobras also are available for international sale, Walsh said.