This year Pakistan will begin receiving the first of 12 Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters that it has ordered. When delivered, they will be the first export use of the type, which is the latest iteration of Bell’s iconic gunship helicopter.
The AH-1 concept has come a long way since its creation as the HueyCobra in the 1960s, gaining a second engine and a four-bladed rotor along the way, while the mission equipment now represents the state-of-the-art in attack helicopter systems.
The Viper’s principal targeting system is the Lockheed Martin AAQ-30 Target Sight System, an electro-optical turret mounted in the helicopter’s nose. The two- person crew employ the Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display, while the Viper is protected by systems such as the AAR-47 missile approach warning system, APR-39C(V)2 radar warning receiver and ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system. Armament comprises a chin-mounted M197 three-barrelled 20mm cannon turret, rocket pods and precision-guided weapons such as Hellfire missiles and APKWS laser-guided rockets. The stub wings have a tip-mounted rail for an air-to-air missile such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder.
Along with the Bell UH-1Y Venom with which it shares major systems and components, the Viper was selected to equip the light helicopter attack squadrons of the US Marine Corps as a successor to the AH-1W. Pakistan became the first export customer when it ordered three in August 2015, adding nine more in April 2016. A total of 15 was requested in the notification to US Congress, approved in April 2015.