The United States has offered to sell Slovakia 12 new Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters with AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles at a two-thirds discount after Slovakia sent its retired MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Na? said his government still had to approve the deal under which it would pay $340 million over three to four years for a package worth more than $1 billion. The remainder would be covered under the U.S. Foreign Military Financing programme. This offer is hugely advantageous and will significantly increase the defence potential of the Slovak Republic. The Slovak Air Force currently do not have attack helicopters, so it would be a completely new combat capability.
The Slovak Air Force, known since 2002 as the Air Force of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic is the aviation and air defense branch of the Slovak Armed Forces. It succeeded the Czechoslovak Air Force together with the Czech Air Force in 1993 with 23 aircraft and 10 helicopters. The Slovak Air Force is part of NATO Integrated Air Defense System – NATINADS. The Slovak Air Force is tasked with the defense of the sovereign Slovak state and the support of the nation’s ground troops. Following the retirement of the Mikoyan MiG-29 in 2022, 7 L-39 Albatros provide the role fast-jet capability to the air force, awaiting the delivery of American F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft in 2024.
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter produced by the American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter. Each one has an additional wingtip station 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. Each one has an additional wingtip station 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 first export customer was the Royal Bahraini Air Force, the Czech Air Force has also ordered the type, which sought to retire its Soviet-era Mil Mi-24 gunships. In December 2019, the Czech Republic finalized the sale with the U.S. of eight UH-1Ys and four AH-1Zs for the Czech Air Force. In March 2022, Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova announced plans to buy further helicopters, attributing this decision to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. The number of the copters that the Czech Republic aims to acquire was not disclosed. However, local industry observers expect the Czech Air Force to purchase a further 12 helocopters on top of its first order.