US State Department approval has been granted for the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of equipment and related services to refurbish 24 Bell AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters to Bahrain, after the nation acquired the helicopters second-hand under the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme.
Confirmation that the State Department had approved this prospective FMS – worth approximately $350m – was announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on March 29, after it had notified the US Congress of the possible sale that same day. As part of the deal, Bahrain has requested to buy equipment and services to refurbish the 24 AH-1Ws and a single full-motion Aircraft Procedures Trainer, as well as an unspecified number of M272A1 missile launchers and spare GE Aviation T700-GE-401 turboshaft engines. In addition, the deal also includes the provision of relevant spare parts, publications and training, programme and logistic support services.
Commenting on the prospective sale in a media release (published on March 29), the DSCA said: “The proposed sale will improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future threats by improving its ability to fulfil maritime patrol, close air support, and search-and-rescue missions. Bahrain will have no difficulty absorbing these defence articles into its armed forces.”
The Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) has operated Bell’s AH-1 family of attack helicopters since 1997, when it received the first of 17 second-hand AH-1E Cobras from the US Army. In 2001, the RBAF acquired an additional nine surplus AH-1F gunships from the US Army, followed by a further eight in 2009. Of the 34 Cobras in service, the 17 AH-1Fs were upgraded to AH-1FB standard, while the older AH-1E gunships were reduced to spares. The RBAF completed this process before the end of 2021. In June 2022, the first of 12 AH-1Z Viper helicopters entered operational RBAF service. Six AH-1Zs have been delivered so far, with the remaining six set to be delivered to Bahrain by the end of this year. Bahrain also operates approximately six ex-US Army TAH-1Ps in a training role.