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US progresses surplus Viper, Venom helicopters for Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is to receive surplus Viper attack and Venom utility helicopters to augment newbuild platforms that are shortly to be delivered. (Czech MoD)

The US government has progressed the Czech Republic's plan to acquire surplus Bell H-1 helicopters, approving the refurbishment and modernisation of mothballed airframes now stored at ‘the boneyard' at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) facility in Arizona.

The US Department of State approval announced on 3 May covers the refurbishment and modernisation of six Excess Defense Article (EDA) AH-1Z Viper attack and two UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, as well as spares, related equipment, and services, for an estimated USD650 million.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO partner that is an important force for ensuring peace and stability in Europe,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said, adding, “The proposed sale will improve the Czech Republic's ability to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability.”

The approval follows the August 2022 announcement that the US would gift the surplus helicopters to the Czech Republic for free, minus the usual EDA costs of refurbishment, modernisation, and shipping. These EDA helicopters will augment the four newbuild Vipers and eight Venoms ordered in September 2020, for a final fleet of 10 of each type.

The Viper and Venom helicopters are intended to replace the Mil Mi-2 ‘Hoplite', Mi-8/17 ‘Hip', and Mi-24 ‘Hind' helicopters of the Army of the Czech Republic (Armáda České republiky: AČR). Deliveries of the newbuild helicopters are scheduled to commence shortly, with the first cadre of air and ground crews having recently completed their training in the US.

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