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US State Department clears sale of 6 modernized AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters to Czech Republic.

| 2023

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency on May 3 announced that the U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Czech Republic of AH-1Z and UH-1Y Refurbishment/Modernization and related equipment for an estimated value of up to $650 million.

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US State Department clears sale of 6 modernized AH 1Z and UH 1Y helicopters to Czech Republic 1 Bell AH-1Z Viper of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Picture source: Wikimedia/USMC)

The Government of the Czech Republic has requested to buy equipment and services to refurbish six (6) AH-1Z and two (2) UH-1Y Excess Defense Article (EDA) helicopters. This equipment and services will include twenty-two (22) T-700 GE 401C engines (16 installed, 6 spares); fourteen (14) Honeywell Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation Systems (EGIs) w/Precise Positioning Service (PPS) (8 installed, 6 spares); four (4) M240 machine guns; and twenty-four (24) ARC-210 COMSEC radios. Also included is communication equipment; electronic warfare systems; support equipment; spare engine containers; flight training devices; Composite Maintenance trainer; spare and repair parts; tools and test equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated total value is $650 million.

The principal contractors will be Bell Helicopter, Textron, Fort Worth, TX, and General Electric Company, Lynn, MA. Implementation of the proposed sale will require multiple trips by U.S. Government and contractor representatives to participate in program and technical reviews plus training and maintenance support in-country, on a temporary basis, for a period of sixty (60) months. It will also require three (3) contractor representatives to reside-in country for a period of two (2) years to support this program.

Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter

The AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, designed and produced by the American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter. It is one of the latest members of the prolific Bell Huey family. It is often called "Zulu Cobra", based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter.

The AH-1Z was developed during the 1990s and 2000s as a part of the H-1 upgrade program on behalf of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It is essentially a modernisation of the service's existing AH-1Ws, and was originally intended to be a rebuild program before subsequent orders were made for new-build helicopters instead. The AH-1Z and Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter share a common tailboom, engines, rotor system, drivetrain, avionics architecture, software, controls and displays for over 84% identical components. Furthermore, it features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system amongst other improvements. On 8 December 2000, the AH-1Z conducted its maiden flight; low-rate initial production was launched in October 2003.

On 30 September 2010, the USMC declared that the AH-1Z had attained combat readiness; it fully replaced the preceding AH-1W Super Cobra during October 2020. The type forms a key element of the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) taskforce which support all phases of USMC expeditionary operations. Since its introduction, the USMC has pursued various upgrades, such as installing Link 16 datalink and outfitting it with the AGM-179A Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM). Additionally, numerous export customers have been sought for the AH-1Z, it has regularly competed with the Boeing AH-64 Apache for orders. The first export customer was the Royal Bahraini Air Force, the Czech Air Force has also ordered the type. At one point, Pakistan was set to operate its own AH-1Zs, but deliveries were blocked due to political factors.

UH-1Y Venom utility heliopter

The UH-1Y Venom (also called Super Huey) is a twin-engine, medium-sized utility helicopter built by Bell Helicopter under the H-1 upgrade program of the U.S. Marine Corps. One of the latest members of the numerous Huey family, the UH-1Y is also called "Yankee", based on the NATO phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter. The UH-1Y was to have been remanufactured from UH-1Ns, but in 2005, it was approved for the aircraft to be built as new. After entering service in 2008, the UH-1Y replaced the USMC's aging fleet of UH-1N Twin Huey light utility helicopters, first introduced in the early 1970s. In 2008 it entered full-rate production, with deliveries to the Marines completed in 2018.

US State Department clears sale of 6 modernized AH 1Z and UH 1Y helicopters to Czech Republic 2 A UH-1Y Venom helicopter is seen en route to Camp Schwab on Okinawa, Japan (Picture source: Wikimedia/Cpl. Hailey D. Clay)

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