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Bahrain approved for 24 surplus SuperCobra attack helos from US

Having been retired by the USMC in 2020, the AH-1W SuperCobra fleet is to be refurbished, modernised, and sold off to the international market. Bahrain is the first customer to be approved for such a procurement. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

Bahrain has been approvedto buy 24 surplus Bell AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 29 March.

The US Department of State has cleared the Gulf state to buy the former US Marine Corps (USMC) platforms, plus spares, training, and other services for an estimated USD350 million.

“The proposed sale will improve Bahrain's capability to meet current and future threats by improving its ability to fulfil maritime patrol, close air support, and search-and-rescue missions,” the DSCA said in its notification.

The potential sale must now be approved by the US Congress before being finalised.

News of the approval came some five years after Janes first reported that the US government was offering these surplus helicopters to either Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) customers. According to the DSCA, Bahrain is to acquire these as Excess Defense Article (EDA) airframes, meaning they are essentially being gifted, minus the costs of refurbishment and shipping.

As Janes noted in January 2018, these helicopters, which were retired by the USMC in 2020, were first to be equipped with a new ‘glass' cockpit ahead of transfer to their new customer(s).

Having entered service with the USMC in 1986, the AH-1W is a highly capable variant of the Vietnam War-era AH-1 Cobra that is still in global service with Bahrain (it also operates the AH-1E/F and the latest AH-1Z models), as well as Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

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