The Czech Air Force (CzAF) formally welcomed its first UH-1Y Venom battlefield utility helicopter to Námešt nad Oslavou Air Base in the Czech Republic on August 17, just three weeks after the air arm received its first two AH-1Z Viper gunships.
The UH-1Y (serial 0490) was flown to Námešt together with the CzAF’s third AH-1Z (serial 0488) by a USAF-operated C-17A Globemaster III (serial 02-1099), which collected the two helicopters from Bell Textron’s facility in Amarillo, Texas, on August 16, before transiting to Námešt via Bangor International Airport, Maine. This delivery comes ahead of schedule, given that when the first two Vipers were delivered, the Czech Ministry of Defence (MOD) outlined that the next two AH-1Zs and first two UH-1Ys for the CzAF would be delivered in September.
These new US-built rotorcraft will be operated by the CzAF’s 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base – the parent unit of both 221 and 222 Helicopter Squadron, which currently employs the Russian-made Mi-24V and Mi-35 Hind-E gunships and Mi-171Sh Hip-H tactical transport helicopters. The CzAF is currently working to phase out its Mi-24/35 and Mi-171 fleets, of which four Hinds have already been donated to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to assist the nation’s ongoing war with Russia.
Initially, the Czech Republic planned to acquire four AH-1Zs and eight UH-1Ys in a deal worth more than $600m that was finalised by the nation’s former Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar in 2019. In August 2022, the Pentagon opted to transfer an additional six Vipers and two Venoms to the CzAF under the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme and in recognition of the Czech Republic’s ongoing support for Ukraine. These eight extra rotorcraft will be sourced from USMC stocks and brought up to the same operational standard as the initial new-build examples.