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US to gift H-1 helicopters to Czech Republic

Two of the 10 UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters (right) and six of the 10 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters (left) the Czech Republic is procuring will be gifted by the US. (Czech MoD)

The Czech Republic will receive eight additional H-1 helicopters from the United States for free, Defence Minister Jana Černochová announced during a visit to the 24th Air Transport Base in Kbely outside Prague on 19 August. She said the US would gift two UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters and six AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters. This will bring the number of UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters that the Czech Republic will receive to 10 each.

The gifting of the additional H-1 helicopters was agreed during Černochová's visit to Washington, DC, in April and finalised on 18 August. The second-hand helicopters are being donated under the US Excess Defense Articles programme, and the Czech Republic will only pay for their transfer, repair, and modification to meet national requirements, according to the Czech Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US embassy in Prague.

Černochová has previously said that the 12 new H-1 helicopters the Czech Republic has ordered from Bell were not a sufficient number and that the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the necessity for air support.

They will replace the Czech Air Force's (CzAF's) eight Mi-35/Mi-24V combat helicopters starting in 2023. Brigadier General Petr Čepelka, director of the Czech MoD's Forces Development Section, said the Russian-built helicopters could be sold or used for spare parts for the CzAF's Mi-171Š helicopters. Colonel Miroslav Šajban, head of the section's helicopter and transport aviation department, said the acquisition of modern H-1 helicopters would reduce Czech dependence on Russia.

The CzAF will also receive Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles with the new helicopters.

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