Helicopters

Czech Air Force receives first AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters

By mid-September, the Czech Air Force will receive four more machines: two AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and the first two UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters.

The Czech Air Force 22nd Air Force Base received the first two American Bell Textron AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters on Jul. 26, 2023. They arrived in a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane. By mid-September, the Vicar base will receive four more machines: two Vipers and the first two UH-1Y Venoms.

“Delivery of the first American helicopters is a significant moment for the modernization of the military, it moves the helicopter air force into the 21st century. In this way, we are getting rid of our dependence on Russian technology and switching to a modern Western platform supplied by an important ally,” said Defense Minister Jana Černochová, in a press release via Ministry of Defense Czech Republic written by Captain Jindřiška Budiková appeared on Bell Textron website.

A large group of American specialists also arrived in the Czech Republic with two helicopters, who, together with their Czech colleagues, will assemble the helicopters, put them into operation and fly them in the next two weeks. The official presentation of the helicopters will take place in Náměště on August 17 with the participation of the Minister of Defense, the Chief of the General Staff and other representatives of the department and the army.

The intergovernmental agreement for the purchase of 12 new helicopters of the H-1 system was signed in 2019 by then Minister of Defense Lubomír Metnar. The Czech Republic will receive another eight modernized ones from the USA for free as an award for helping Ukraine. The Czech army will thus have a total of 10 UH-1Y Venom machines and the same number of AH-1Z Viper at its disposal.

Viper attack helicopters and Venoms utility helicopters stand out for their firepower, self-protection system, covert communication and ability to survive on the battlefield. Compared to the Russian Mi-24, the machines are also incomparably simpler in terms of maintenance.

“The H-1 system will fundamentally increase the firing capabilities of the helicopter air force of the Czech army, especially with precisely guided ammunition that can be used by both helicopters of the system,” noted the Chief of the General Staff of the ACR, Lieutenant General Karel Řehka.

According to Major General Petr Čepelka, Commander of the Czech Air Force, the new helicopters represent a complete system. “The Army of the Czech Republic will receive two helicopters of similar performance that can perform operational tasks together. Vipers provide offensive air support. Venoms alone or in cooperation with Vipers provide close fire support and logistics,” highlighted Čepelka.

In addition to a digital cockpit with large LCD panels, an automatic flight control system with integrated satellite and inertial navigation, another advantage is the similarity in construction (engines, rotors, electronics and avionics) and flight areas. “Pilots are able to switch between individual types. The H-1 system also allows parts to be exchanged between Venoms and Vipers, which makes for simpler logistics,” he recalled. Along with the helicopters, the Czech army will also receive appropriate armament: Hellfire and APKWS air-to-ground guided missiles, unguided missiles and ammunition for cannon and machine guns.

Pilots and technicians from Náměště retrained on the new machines for seven months at the US Marine Corps Pendleton base. Other courses will continue already in the Czech Republic under the leadership of the American mobile training team for a period of two years, until the pilots and technicians fully master the system of operation and maintenance of the machines.

In the Czech Republic, there is already the first of two training simulators that LOM Prague will operate in the recently completed simulation center directly at the 22nd base. Classrooms, a mission planning room and facilities will be available in the building. The simulator offers all the controls and weapon systems as in a real helicopter.

The 22nd base of the helicopter air force is currently equipped with Mi-24V/35 helicopters, which they will soon say goodbye to. The multi-purpose Mi-171Š remains in its arsenal. Both types officially began to expire many years ago. The official farewell to the Mi-24V/35 helicopter will take place at the September NATO Days in Ostrava.

Bell Textron’s work beyond aircraft manufacturing includes building a flight training device for the Czech Republic, essential to integrating the new helicopters into the Czech Armed Forces.

Bell began production on the Czech Republic UH-1Y in 2021, marking the first production for an international operator of the UH-1Y. The Czech Republic’s purchase of both the AH-1Z and UH-1Y takes full advantage of the 85 percent commonality between parts and enabling full mission capabilities between both aircraft.

Photo credit: Captain Jindřiška Budiková / Ministry of Defense Czech Republic

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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