The U.S. Department of Defense announced on 10 November that Bell Textron Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, is awarded an $18,645,884 modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee contract. This modification provides for the production and delivery of one AH-1Z attack helicopter flight training device as well as in-country installation and three months of interim support for the government of the Czech Republic. Work is expected to be completed in December 2023. Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $18,645,884 will be obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
In 2016, Bell was also interested in selling the AH-1Z to Poland and Czech Republic, which are going to retire their Mil Mi-24s. In December 2019, the Czech Republic finalized the sale with the U.S. of four AH-1Z helicopters for the Czech Air Force. It was reported that the Royal Moroccan Air Force was interested in procuring the AH-1Z helicopters in 2016. In November 2016, Bell Helicopter signed a memorandum of understanding with Romanian airspace company IAR – Ghimbav Brasov Group for potential collaboration on the AH-1Z Viper. In August 2017, Romania also signed a letter of intent with Bell Helicopter to establish a joint venture with Romanian state-owned ROMARM for the potential procurement of a number of AH-1Zs.
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is an American twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, that was developed for the United States Marine Corps as part of the H-1 upgrade program. The AH-1Z features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system. The AH-1Z, one of the latest members of the prolific Bell Huey family, is also called “Zulu Cobra”, based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter. The AH-1Z incorporates new rotor technology with upgraded military avionics, weapons systems, and electro-optical sensors in an integrated weapons platform. It has improved survivability and can find targets at longer ranges and attack them with precision weapons.
The AH-1Z’s bearingless, hingeless rotor system has 75% fewer parts than that of four-bladed articulated systems. The blades are made of composites, which have an increased ballistic survivability, and there is a semiautomatic folding system for storage aboard amphibious assault ships. Its two redesigned wing stubs are longer, with each adding a wingtip station for a missile such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Each wing has two other stations for 2.75-inch (70 mm) Hydra 70 rocket pods, or AGM-114 Hellfire quad missile launchers. The AN/APG-78 Longbow fire control radar can also be mounted on a wingtip station.The Z-model’s integrated avionics system has been developed by Northrop Grumman. The navigation suite includes an embedded GPS inertial navigation system, a digital map system and Meggitt’s low-airspeed air data subsystem, which allows weapons delivery when hovering.