The Czech Republic has received its first two Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, with the assets having been delivered on 26 July aboard a US Air Force Boeing C-17 strategic transport.

“Delivery of the first American helicopters is a significant moment for the modernisation of the military,” says defence minister Jana Cernochova. “We are getting rid of our dependence on Russian technology and switching to a modern Western platform supplied by an important ally.”

Czech AH-1Z unloading

Source: Captain Jindriska Budikova/Czech defence ministry

The Czech air force’s first two AH-1Zs were unloaded from a C-17 strategic transport

Images from the delivery event show the new helicopters as having the service registrations 0486 and 0487.

Prague intends to end operations with its current Mil Mi-24V/35 fleet in mid-September, with their departure to coincide with the NATO Days event in Ostrava.

The Czech defence ministry hails the AH-1Z’s “firepower, self-protection system, covert communication and ability to survive on the battlefield”, and describes the US type as “incomparably simpler in terms of maintenance” than its Soviet-era predecessor.

Flight operations using the first two AH-1Zs are scheduled to begin within around two weeks, with an initial focus on completing certification activities. A formal acceptance ceremony will take place on 17 August.

Further deliveries to be completed by mid-September will add a second pair of AH-1Zs and the NATO member’s first two UH-1Y utility helicopters, the defence ministry says.

Prague initially ordered four AH-1Zs and eight UH-1Y utility helicopters, but Washington earlier this year announced its donation of a further eight modernised airframes. This will result in the Czech air force eventually fielding 10 of each model.

Meanwhile, a US mobile training team will begin instructing personnel on the H-1-series aircraft at Namest air base in the Czech Republic on 1 September, with the in-country provision to continue for a two-year period. A first of two LOM Praha-supplied simulators for the rotorcraft has already been installed at the base.

A lead batch of Czech pilots and technicians have previously completed a seven-month training programme at the US Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton in California.