Bahrain's new Bell AH-1Zs and 505 helicopters lined up for their induction on 5 February. (Bahrain News Agency)
Bahrain's new AH-1Z attack helicopters were formally inducted into service during a ceremony attended by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on 5 February, the 56th anniversary of the Bahrain Defence Force.
Bahraini television showed nine AH-1Zs lined up for the event at a location that could be identified as Sakhir Air Base, along with the Royal Bahraini Air Force's (RBAF's) three new Bell 505 training helicopters, as well as several AH-1 Cobra, Black Hawk, and AB212 helicopters. It referred to the new type of attack helicopter as the Al-Kobra Z rather than the Viper, the name used by the US Marine Corps.
In his speech, RBAF commander Air Vice-Marshal Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said the new attack helicopters were acquired under Project Bahrain Shield and had now reached “the peak of combat readiness”.
“It is with great pride that the Royal Bahraini Air Force is the first to receive this system from outside the United States of America,” he added. “It is one of the most modern and efficient systems in the world.”
Bell Helicopter Textron was awarded a USD240 million Foreign Military Sales contract in February 2021 to deliver 12 AH-1Zs to Bahrain. It handed over the first one to US Naval Air Systems Command in October 2021, and one was displayed for the first time in Bahrain at the airshow held in November 2022.
Bell announced the following month that it had delivered all 12 to US Naval Air Systems Command, which had shipped six to Bahrain. Bell then announced in March 2023 that it had also delivered three 505s to Bahrain under a previously unannounced contract.