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Czech Viper and Venom double deal takes shape

10th September 2020 - 12:00 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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The Czech Republic’s long-running effort to acquire new utility and attack helicopters has taken a key step forward, after the US DoD issued Bell with a $272 million contract for the production and delivery to Prague of eight UH-1Y Venom and four AH-1Z Viper aircraft.

The contract notification follows Mark Esper, US Secretary of Defence and Lubomir Metnar, Czech Republic Minister of Defence, signing a letter of offer and acceptance for the 12 aircraft FMS in December 2019.

Various sources have reported that the entire deal is estimated to be worth between $600 million and $630 million including support services, training and spare parts, or specific items not included in the $272 million contract notification – suggesting that additional funding will be released in due course.

Legacy Soviet-era Mil Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters will be retired to make way for the Venoms and Vipers, which are expected to undertake humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, close air support and air-to-air warfare missions.

Prague has been actively pursuing equipment modernisation efforts in response to Russian confrontations with Ukraine. The Czech Republic also has ambitions to replace 14 Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters, with Lockheed Martin prepared to offer the F-35.

The rotary-wing acquisition, however, represents a first mixed H-1 international sale for Bell, with the AH-1Z currently under consideration for purchase by the Philippines. According to Shephard Defence Insight, the attack helicopter is also on order from Bahrain, Pakistan and Romania.

‘Bell is actively processing requests from multiple countries for combinations of the UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters,’ a company spokesperson confirmed in a statement.

‘The AH-1Z is currently in production and the commonality of the AH-1Z and UH-1Y allow for a seamless restart of the UH-1Y production line after completing delivery of 160 UH-1Ys to the US Marine Corps in 2019.’

Production of the Czech Republic’s H-1 fleet is expected to take place at Bell’s Fort Worth, Texas and Amarillo, Texas facilities with deliveries expected to be completed by 2023.

‘No immediate impacts to our shop floor’ have arisen as a result of COVID-19, the spokesperson added.

Both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft are operated by USMC light attack units.

Vipers can also be armed with a host of munitions including AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM 92 Stinger and Hellfire missiles as well as APKWS and Hydra rockets. 

Tim Martin

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Tim Martin


Tim Martin is Editor, Air for Shephard Media, based in London. 

Tim has experience writing and …

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