Bell rolls out first AH-1Z for Bahrain

by Gareth Jennings

With the roll-out of the first AH-1Z for Bahrain, it was revealed that the kingdom's fleet will feature a ‘unique' two-tone grey colour scheme. (Bell)

Bell has rolled out the first of 12 AH-1Z Viper for Bahrain, handing the attack helicopter over to the US Naval Air Systems Command ahead of delivery to the Gulf kingdom in 2022.

The manufacturer announced the milestone on 22 October, releasing an image of this first helicopter finished in the ‘unique' two-tone grey scheme and markings of the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF). News of the roll-out came approximately seven months after the work on the first helicopter began at Bell's Amarillo production facility in Texas in March.

Bahrain is to receive its AH-1Z attack helicopters under a Foreign Military Sales deal that was first approved in April 2018 and signed in February 2019. As noted by the US Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) when the procurement was first approved, in addition to the 12 AH-1Z helicopters, Bahrain is to also acquire Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and BAE Systems Advance Precision Kill Weapon System II guided rockets, as well as Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display system.


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Australia receives first upgraded C-130J-30 Block 8.1 aircraft

by Alessandra Giovanzanti

On 19 January the RAAF received the first Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules transport aircraft to be upgraded to the Block 8.1 software and hardware standard. (Royal Australian Air Force)

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has received the first Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules transport aircraft upgraded to Block 8.1 standard, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) announced on 19 January.

The aircraft, which arrived at RAAF Richmond air base in New South Wales, was upgraded by Lockheed Martin in the United States with support from the United States Air Force. The remaining 11 C-130s will be modified by Airbus Australia Pacific at Richmond air base, the Australian DoD said.

“Block 8.1 will make it easier for crews to operate the Hercules in a range of complicated environments, from civilian airspace around airports through to airfields on the frontline,” Group Captain Badgery, Officer Commanding the Air Lift Systems Program Office, said.


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Spain approves Eurodrone participation

by Gareth Jennings

A scale model of the Eurodrone in Luftwaffe markings was shown at the Berlin Security Conference in November 2021. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

Spain has formally approved its participation in the Eurodrone project, joining partners France, Germany, and Italy, which have already signed off on their involvement in developing the European unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Spanish Council of Ministers gave its consent to the country's inclusion in the Eurodrone project, also known as the European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) and/or the EuroMALE, on 25 January.

“The Council of Ministers has approved an agreement authorising the acquisition of expenditure commitments charged to future years […] so that the Ministry of Defence [MoD] can carry out carried out the development, production, and support for the entry into service, as well as the logistical support of the EuroMALE RPAS programme,” the council said.


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MQ-8C Fire Scout on maiden USN deployment

by Richard Scott

The US Navy has declared the MQ-8C unmanned helicopter to be operationally ready, commencing its first shipborne deployment in December 2021. (Northrop Grumman)

The US Navy (USN) has commenced a first shipborne deployment of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial system (UAS), the service revealed on 24 January.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Detachment 5 (HSC-22 DET 5) was deployed operationally from the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) on 14 December 2021. Milwaukee is supporting operations in the US 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

Developed by Northrop Grumman, the MQ-8 Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing UAS is designed to provide situational awareness and real-time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and targeting capabilities. The MQ-8C variant marries the existing Fire Scout UAS architecture (developed for the legacy MQ-8B air vehicle) with the Bell 407 rotorcraft to create an autonomous four-bladed, single-engine, unmanned helicopter. The larger air vehicle provides extended endurance (over 10 hours on station with a 300 lb payload), range (150 n miles), and greater payload capability (over 700 lb).


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https://www.janes.com/defence-news/air-platforms/latest/bell-rolls-out-first-ah-1z-for-bahrain

Bell has rolled out the first of 12 AH-1Z Viper for Bahrain, handing the attack helicopter over to t...

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