First flight of the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter for the Czech Army
Recently, the first flight of the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter in Czech colours, which was manufactured at the Bell assembly centre in Amarillo, Texas, took place. The machine, which is destined for the Air Force of the Czech Army, successfully completed its inaugural flight.
Video: First flight of the AH-1Z Viper helicopter in Czech colours / YouTube
About a month ago, First Deputy Minister of Defence František Šulc and Commander of the Air Force of the Czech Army Brigadier General Petr Čepelka personally visited the Bell Textron factory in Amarillo, Texas, to see the machine intended for the Czech Air Force. "I am very pleased that I could return to Amarillo almost exactly after a year and see the first AH-1Z helicopter produced, which will soon be delivered to the Czech Army," said First Deputy Minister of Defence František Šulc, adding that this is an important step in the modernisation of the army.
According to the Commander of the Czech Air Force, Major General Petr Čepelka, the American AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom machines bring completely new capabilities and ways of deployment and represent a complete system that will move the Czech Helicopter Air Force into the 21st century. "The Czech Army will get two helicopters with similar performance that can keep up together. Vipers provide offensive air support, while Venoms provide manoeuvring, logistics and close fire support, alone or in cooperation," Čepelka said.
In addition to the digital cockpit with large LCD panels, automatic flight control system with integrated satellite and inertial navigation, another advantage of the new helicopters is the consistency in the structural (engines, rotors, electronics and avionics) and flight areas.
With the new helicopters, the Army will also receive the appropriate armament in the form of Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Sidewinder missiles for air-to-air operations.
Picture: UH-1Y Venom | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: AH-1Z Viper | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
The 22nd Helicopter Air Base is currently armed with Mi-24/35 attack helicopters and Mi-171Š multi-role helicopters. Both types officially began to reach the end of their service life many years ago, so in 2019, then-Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar and his US counterpart Mark Esper signed an intergovernmental agreement to purchase a total of 12 new H1 system helicopters (4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and 8 UH-1Y Venom multi-role helicopters).
The Czech Republic will receive eight more older but fully operational aircraft (2 UH-1Y Venom and 6 AH-1Z Viper) free of charge from the US in appreciation of its assistance to Ukraine. Thanks to the agreement between Defence Minister Jana Černochová and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, the total number of helicopters will increase to 10 UH-1Y and 10 AH-1Z helicopters. Bell plans to deliver the first H-1 platform machines to the Czech Republic in spring 2023.
Our editorial team also recently visited the H-1 Plant of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA on the premises of the 22nd Helicopter Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou to see the final installation of the AH-1Z Viper combat helicopter simulator. According to the agreement with the Czech Army, the simulator will provide up to 3,000 operating hours per year. The H-1 simulation centre in Náměšt' nad Oslavou has a capacity of 34 people. In addition to two halls for FTD (Flight Training Device) of AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, the simulation centre also includes classrooms for CBT (Computer Based Training) and a workplace for operations planning and flight activity evaluation.
Picture: Final installation of the simulator for AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE