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Pakistan’s US-made AH-1Z Viper helicopters to be fitted with General Dynamics gun turrets

Pakistan’s Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters will have General Dynamics-made gun turrets fitted, according to a U.S. Department of Defense press release.

“General Dynamics-OTS Inc., Williston, Vermont, is being awarded $9,064,921 for firm-fixed-price delivery order 0008 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-16-G-0007) for the procurement of 41 A/A49E-7 (V4) gun turrets for AH-1Z helicopters in support of the Marine Corps and the government of Pakistan,” the Thursday, December 7 press release said.

Pakistan’s contribution to the contract is approximately 34 percent of the total cost, making it likely that all 12 aircraft currently on order for its air force will be fitted with the gun turret.

The gun turret system is mounted on the front of the AH-1Z Viper helicopter and gives the aircraft the capability to use the fitted M197 20mm rotary gun, which allows both air-to-air and air-to-surface short-range combat.

Work under the contract is expected to be completed in August 2021, the release said, but the aircraft for Pakistan are due to be delivered much sooner.

AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter fires a Hellfire missile
An AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile at Range 176, Okinawa, Japan, February 14, 2017. Image: US Marine Corps/MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans

The U.S. State Department approved the sale of 15 AH-1Zs and 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire II laser-guided air-to-surface missiles in April 2015, along with other equipment and support in a deal worth up to $952 million. Pakistan ordered three AH-1Ys for $58 million in August 2015, and a further nine AH-1Ys in April 2016 for $170 million. Work under both contracts was expected to be complete by September 2018, but Shepherd Media reported that the first three aircraft may be delivered this year.

The AH-1Z Viper is the latest in the long line of Huey family helicopters. The twin-engine attack helicopter is based on the AH-1W SuperCobra developed for the U.S. Marine Corps and features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, upgraded avionics and a new target sighting system.

It first flew on December 8, 2000.

Pakistan seeks Turkish T129 ATAK attack helicopters

On November 25, Pakistan’s Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain told Anadolu Agency that the country intends to procure 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters, an aircraft that performs similar roles to the AH-1Y.

The Turkish Aerospase Industries T129 ATAK helicopter is an upgraded AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta. Turkish companies Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan developed weapons and subsystems for the helicopter.

Hussain said the procurement process was “90 percent complete” leaving financial aspects to be considered.

Transfer of technology is an important part of the deal – TAI and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex signed a memorandum of understanding at Turkey’s IDEF 2017 defense expo in May to enable PAC to manufacture parts for the T129 and possibly assemble the aircraft.

In return, Turkey expressed interest in procuring 52 Super Mushshak trainer aircraft and an unknown number of JF-17 fighter aircraft from Pakistan.

Pakistan is also interested in purchasing four of Turkey’s MILGEM warships, with two to be built in Pakistan, Hussain said.

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