U.S. and Czech defense officials have finalized the sale of a mixed fleet of Bell H-1 helicopters that should breathe new life into the iconic Huey production line at least through 2024.
The U.S. and Czech Republic recently signed a letter of offer and acceptance formalizing the foreign military sale by Bell of UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters to the Czech Air Force.
Included in the deal are four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and eight UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. They are the most-modern, twin-engine, four-bladed versions of the AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 Huey. Bell anticipates the delivery of the first H-1 aircraft to the Czech Republic will begin in 2023 and be completed by 2024.
The deal is part of a larger $1 billion FMS purchase approved by the U.S. State Department in May that also includes Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks. Purchasing the UH-1Y may indicate the nation is no longer interested in buying the Black Hawk, as the Czech government was interested in both aircraft as potential replacements for its aging Russian-made Mi-24 helicopters, according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
A Czech request to purchase 12 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks — the most up-to-date version of the ubiquitous utility helicopter — eight General Electric T700 engines and a laundry list of associated sensors, avionics systems, weapons and support for $800 million is the larger of the two separate FMS approvals.
For another $205 million, the Czech government will get four Bell AH-1Z advanced Cobra attack helicopters, eight GE T700 engines, eight Honeywell embedded GPS systems with inertial navigation and 14 AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles.
The H-1 mixed fleet shares 85-percent commonality between parts, reducing the logistics, maintenance, and training costs of the AH-1Z and UY-1Y helicopters, while offering a lethal combination of integrated weapons systems to counter ground, air, and maritime targets effectively. The AH-1Z is the only helicopter in production equipped with the AIM-9 Sidewinder providing the most advanced air-to-air combat capabilities.
“This mix allows the Czech Republic to accomplish a diverse mission set, from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to close air support and air-to-air warfare,” said Joel Best, Bell’s director of military sales and strategy in Europe. “The advanced capabilities of the H-1 program help ensure the safety and security of Czech sons and daughters for years to come.”
The Czech Republic will become the third foreign military sales customer for the UH-1Y/AH-1Z, but the first NATO country to fly the updated Huey and/or Cobra, which are manufactured by Bell with 85 percent commonality. Pakistan and Bahrain already operate the aircraft, according to Marine Corps Light Attack Program Manager Col David Walsh.
The U.S. Marine Corps has transitioned entirely to the four-blade, twin-engine UH-1Y Venom and is in the process of replacing its fleet of AH-1W Super Cobras with the AH-1Z Viper. Bell will continue to deliver the AH-1Z through 2022.