The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded Bell Helicopter a USD581 million contract that includes the delivery of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan.
The contract, which was announced by the DoD on 26 August but awarded the day before, covers the manufacture and delivery of 15 Lot 12 UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, 19 Lot 12 AH-1Zs, one Lot 13 UH-1Y, and 21 auxiliary fuel kits for the US Marine Corps (USMC) and government of Pakistan.
Pakistan requested the sale of 15 AH-1Z helicopters in April, and this announcement is the first official confirmation that a deal has been signed. While the notification does not say how many of the 15 helicopters have been signed for at this stage, it states that 10% (USD57.9 million) of the overall contract value covers the sale to the government of Pakistan. This suggests that this is an initial deal for the first two helicopters only, with contracts for the remaining 13 (plus spares and support) to follow.
According to the DoD, these initial helicopters will be delivered by the end of August 2018. The original US Defense Security Co-operation Agency notification of Pakistan’s request included 1,000 AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles for “a precision-strike, enhanced-survivability aircraft that can operate at high altitudes. By acquiring this [AH-1Z and Hellfire II] capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency [NWA], the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATAs], and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day and night environments”.
The contract notification is the latest development in Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to bolster its rotary-winged attack capabilities. As well as procuring the 15 AH-1Zs to bolster and eventually replace its existing 32 AH-1F Cobra platforms, Pakistan has also evaluated the Chinese CHAIG WZ-10 attack helicopters, which has included flying them operationally on counter-terrorism missions, and is rumoured to be interested in the Russian-built Mil Mi-28NE ‘Havoc’ as well. On 19 August it was announced that Pakistan and Russia had signed a formal agreement for the procurement of four Mi-35 ‘Hind’ attack helicopters, with more likely to follow.