Czech Republic receives first AH-1Z Viper gunships

The first two of a planned fleet of ten AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters for the arrived at Námešt nad Oslavou Air Base in the Czech Republic – the home of the Czech Air Force’s (CzAF’s) 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base – on July 26.

The two gunships (serials 0486 and 0487) arrived aboard a USAF-operated C-17A (serial 01-0191), which collected the two AH-1Zs from Bell Textron’s facility in Amarillo, Texas, on July 25, before transiting to Námešt via Pease ANGB, New Hampshire, and Naval Station Rota in Spain.

Several specialists have also arrived in the Czech Republic to assist local maintenance crews in reassembling the two airframes and conduct ground/air-based testing before a Mobile Training Team arrives in August. This team will train Czech crews on the aircraft from September, when an additional two AH-1Zs are scheduled to be delivered, along with the CzAF’s first two UH-1Y Venom battlefield utility helicopters.

The CzAF’s first AH-1Z Viper gunship (serial 0486) is unloaded from USAF C-17A (serial 01-0191) shortly after arriving at Náměšt nad Oslav Air Base in the Czech Republic on July 26.
The CzAF’s first AH-1Z Viper gunship (serial 0486) is unloaded from USAF C-17A (serial 01-0191) shortly after arriving at Náměšt nad Oslav Air Base in the Czech Republic on July 26. Czech MOD/Capt Jindřiška Budiková

The delivery of these new US-built helicopters will enable the CzAF to retire its remaining fleet of Russian-built Mi-24/35 Hind-E gunships – which were delivered in the mid-2000s as part of a debt repayment – this September. Four of these attack helicopters have already been donated to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to assist the nation’s ongoing war with Russia.

Commenting on the arrival of the first Vipers, Czech Defence Minister Jana Cernochová said: “Delivery of the first American helicopters is a significant moment of the military; it moves the helicopter air force into the 21st century. 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.”

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 UH-1Ys to the CzAF under the US Excess Defense Articles programme and in recognition of the Czech Republic’s 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.