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Czech Republic to buy 12 Bell military helicopters for $630 million

The Czech armed forces is to buy eight UH-1Y Venom multi-purpose helicopters and four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters

NATO member the Czech Republic said on Tuesday, November 12 it would buy 12 helicopters from the United States in a bid to replace its aging Russian-made Mi-24 aircraft.

The deal between the Czech and U.S. governments worth 14.6 billion koruna ($630 million) will be formally signed this year, the defense ministry said in a statement.

“The army needs new helicopters. The sooner we get rid of our dependence on Russian technology, the better. That is why we want to sign the contract this year so that by 2023 the helicopters will equip the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic,” Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar said.

USMC UH-1Y Venom helicopter
A UH-1Y Venom with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 during a refueling exercise August 23, 2017. Image: US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira

The Czech armed forces will buy eight UH-1Y Venom multi-purpose helicopters and four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, the ministry said, adding that other equipment, ammunition, a training simulator and initial conversion training for pilots and technical personnel is included.

In May, the U.S. State Department approved the sale to the Czech Republic of either 12 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters or four AH-1Zs plus UH-1Y utility helicopters. The number of UH-1Ys was not specified, but the sale of four AH-1Z helicopters along with 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, M197 20mm machine guns and other equipment, along with training, spares, and support was estimated at $205 million.

The principal contractors for that proposed sale are Textron’s Bell Helicopter and General Electric, and at the time there were no known offset agreements.

The Tuesday release said that the government-to-government contract guarantees security and reliability of supply, the ministry said, adding that “the Ministry of Defense expects at least 30% of the contract value in favor of Czech companies.”

AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter
A US Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter during an offensive air support exercise at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Arizona, April 11, 2017. Image: US Marine Corps/Cpl. AaronJames B. Vinculado

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.

The Bell UH-1Y Venom, is another recent member of the Huey helicopter family. Sometimes called the Super Huey, it is a twin-engine, medium-sized utility helicopter, built for the U.S. Marine Corps. It entered service in 2008, and was planned to replace the USMC’s fleet of 1970s-vintage UH-1N Twin Huey light utility helicopters, which were retired in 2014.

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With reporting from AFP

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