The US government will donate a total of eight Bell AH-1Z Viper attack and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters to the Czech Republic, increasing Prague’s total H-1 fleet to 20 aircraft. The new rotorcraft are set to replace outdated Soviet Mi-35/24Vs, eight of which have been in service since 2003. The donation from the US will see six Vipers and two Venoms handed over with Prague only required to pay for aircraft repairs or modifications depending on mission requirements and transfer from the US. Confirmation of the move was provided by Jana Cernochova, the Czech Republic’s minister of defence, during a visit to the 24th Air Transport Base, Prague-Kbely on 19 August.
The Vipers and Venoms will be joining eight newly-built Viper and Venom helicopters built under a 2020 contract with Bell worth around $506 million. 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. The UH-1Y and AH-1Z share the same engines, integrated mission system and dynamic components, such as the four-bladed rotor system. The first of the new helicopters is expected to be handed over in 2023, with deliveries set to complete by 2024. The Czech Republic will also be receiving Hellfire and Sidewinder missiles for the helicopters.
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, designed and produced by the American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter. Being one of the latest members of the prolific Bell Huey family, it is also called “Zulu Cobra”, based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter. The AH-1Z is equipped with a pair of stub wings for a missile such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Each stub 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 Bell UH-1Y Venom (also called Super Huey) is a twin-engine, medium-sized utility helicopter built by Bell Helicopter under the H-1 upgrade program of the United States Marine Corps. One of the latest members of the numerous Huey family, the UH-1Y is also called “Yankee”, based on the NATO phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter. The UH-1Y variant modernizes the UH-1 design. The Y-model upgrades pilot avionics to a glass cockpit, and provides the UH-1 with a modern forward-looking infrared system. Its most noticeable upgrade over previous variants is a four-blade, all-composite rotor system designed to withstand up to 23 mm rounds.