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The Czech Air Force has received its first two AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, the aircraft’s manufacturer, Bell, announced on 28 July 2023.

The two AH-1Zs arrived at the 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou on 26 July on a US Air Force C-17 airlifter. By mid-September the base will receive four more aircraft: two Vipers and the first two UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters.

“Delivery of the first American helicopters is a significant moment for the modernisation of the military; it moves the helicopter air force into the 21st century,” Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová was quoted as saying by the Czech Ministry of Defence. “In this way we are getting rid of our dependence on Russian technology and switching to a modern Western platform supplied by an important ally.”

The Czech Air Force received its first two Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters on 26 July 2023. (Photo: Czech MoD)

A detachment of US specialists also arrived in the Czech Republic with the two helicopters who, together with their Czech colleagues, are assembling the helicopters and will put them into operation and conduct the necessary certifications.

During August a US mobile training team will arrive that will start training 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base personnel from 1 September.

The official presentation of the helicopters will take place in Náměště nad Oslavou on 17 August with the participation of the Czech defence minister, Chief of the General Staff and other dignitaries.

The US government confirmed in August 2022 that it would donate six AH-1Zs and two UH-1Ys to the Czech Republic as Excess Defense Articles. These are being added to the four AH-1Zs and eight UH-1Ys that the Czechs had already ordered in 2019 to give an total inventory of 10 of each type.

Acquisition of the AH-1Zs will allow the Czech Air Force to retire its Soviet designed Mi-24V/Mi-35 attack helicopters.

Peter Felstead