The US Navy (USN) awarded Bell a USD440 million contract modification to produce and deliver 25 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters on 18 January, according to a Pentagon statement.
The contract modification, known as Lot 16, is part of the US Marine Corps' (USMC's) programme to acquire 189 AH-1Zs. The contract also includes the purchase of 25 store control units, which, according to Bell spokesman Michael Reilly, is the interface between the pilot and the weapon system that is used to manage the employment of the weapons loaded on the aircraft.
Work is expected to be complete by January 2022. Reilly said it takes roughly 30-31 months to manufacture an AH-1Z aircraft. USN spokesman Greg Kuntz said on 23 January that Lot 16 is the final lot buy of AH-1Z for the service.
The marinised AH-1Z features virtually identical front and rear 'glass' cockpits, fully-integrated weapons, avionics, and communications system. It also features a fully-integrated air-to-air missile capability.
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