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On 19 August 2022, Czech Defence Minister Jana Černochová stated that the Czech Republic will receive eight H-1 series helicopters from the USA free of charge. This batch comprises six UH-1Y VENOM and two AH-1Z VIPER helicopters. The Czech Republic has previously ordered a batch of 12 H-1 series helicopters on 12 December 2019 so in total, the Czech Air Force is slated to receive 10 UH-1Y VENOM and 10 AH-1Z VIPER helicopters. These are due to replace outdated Mi-35/24Vs in the Czech Armed Forces, with deliveries taking place from 2023.

The US helicopters are to be provided from surplus US stocks, and along with the machines, the Czechs will receive AGM-114 HELLFIRE air-to-ground missiles and AIM-9 SIDEWINDERs for air-to-air operations. The Defence Minister agreed on the delivery of the eight free machines during her visit to Washington in April 2022, with the original batch of 12 seen as insufficient following the outbreak of the War in Ukraine in February 2022.

Existing Czech Helicopters

The Czech Air Force currently has eight Mi-35/24V attack helicopters in its arsenal, which have been serving in the Czech Army since 2003. Brigadier General Petr Čepelka, Director of the Force Development Section of the Czech MoD, stated that these helicopters could either be used as a source of spare parts for Czech Mi-171 helicopters, or sold.

For operation of the H-1 series helicopters, two groups of pilots and technicians from the Czech Náměšt’ nad Oslavou airbase will begin being retrained in the US on H-1 serieshelicopters from July 2022. Bell’s mobile training team willalso train local personnel in the Czech Republic for two years before they fully master the helicopter operation and maintenance system.

The Czech defence industry, including state-owned companies LOM Praha and VTÚ, as well as Ray Service and VR Group, will contribute more than one-third of the contract value for the helicopters. LOM Praha will provide life cycle support for the vehicles, which will take place at their new H-1 repair plant at Náměšt’ nad Oslavou. Additionally, a simulation centre will be built at the airbase for training ground crew and flight personnel on the new machines.