Bell Textron revealed on February 20 that it has completed the programme of record for Bahrain’s acquisition of 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, adding that the last six examples are on schedule to arrive in the Kingdom later this year.
This announcement comes after Bell delivered the Royal Bahraini Air Force’s (RBAF’s) final production-standard AH-1Z gunships to US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) last December, where they will be prepared for shipment in coordination with the US Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) before being transported to Bahrain. This last batch of six Vipers is expected to arrive in-country by the end of 2023. Bahrain has already received its first six AH-1Zs, with the type making its public debut in RBAF service during the Bahrain International Air Show, which was held from November 9-11, 2022.
Commenting on this important milestone – which comes hot on the heels of Bell completing the programme of record for the AH-1Zs purchased by the USMC – Mike Deslatte, vice president and H-1 program director at Bell, said: “Congratulations to the Kingdom of Bahrain on obtaining the latest generation of the AH-1Zs. As a leader in the region, Bahrain’s defensive capabilities will be further bolstered by the advanced technologies of the Viper.”
While Bell has completed the Bahrain AH-1Z programme of record, the firm will continue to work with the nation and will carry out post-shipping inspections and re-assembly on each aircraft to ensure their configuration is the same as what was defined in the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) case. In addition, Bell will also continue to provide through-life support to the Bahraini AH-1Z fleet going forward.
Speaking to Key.Aero at the Bahrain International Air Show in November 2022, a representative from the RBAF said that the first batch of AH-1Zs are currently being flown by No 8 and 9 Squadron at Riffa, alongside the air arm's existing fleet of 17 AH-1FBs and TAH-1P trainers. Given that the RBAF serial system starts with the squadron number and the fact that the Viper's start with '22--', it would appear that these attack helicopters will eventually be employed by a new unit: No 22 Squadron.