The Pakistan Army is looking at procuring a new attack helicopter type to enhance its current capabilities as part of a wider modernisation of its rotary-winged assault capabilities.
Speaking at the IQPC Military Helicopter conference in London, the commander of Pakistan Army Aviation, Major General Nasir D Shah, said that a number of platform options are being considered to augment its current Bell AH-1 Cobras, its already arrived and soon-to-be inducted Mil Mi-35s, and its soon to be delivered Bell AH-1Z Viper platforms.
“Army Aviation has plans to further enhance its attack helicopter fleets, and various options are currently being considered and evaluated,” Gen Shah said on 31 January. “Army Aviation needs a platform that is suitable for operations in a dusty environment, that can fly in extreme high temperatures while suitably configured [with weapons and sensors], can operate in low visibility [night and ‘brownout’ conditions], that demonstrates ease of maintenance and logistic support, and where depot-level maintenance can be transferred [to Pakistan].”
While the general made no reference to the platforms being considered, Pakistan is known to have evaluated the Chinese-built Z-10 as far back as 2014, and it was reported by Turkey that a number of its TAI T-129 attack helicopters had been sent to Pakistan for evaluation in 2016. Besides these two platforms, Pakistan might instead procure additional AH-1Zs to fulfil its requirements.
According to Gen Shah, while the current Cobras have proven to be effective over their more-than-30-years of service, they are now showing their limitations. “The [current 32] AH-1 helicopters have provided effective close support for our ground forces engaged in counterinsurgency [COIN] operations, but they cannot be employed effectively in high-altitude operations above 8,000 ft,” he noted.
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