Bahrain has confirmed its order for 12 Bell AH-1Z Vipers, six months after the US Department of State approved the deal, worth an estimated $912 million, under the Foreign Military Sales process.

The attack helicopters will be delivered from the second half of 2022, the Royal Bahraini Air Force said at the Bahrain air show. Bell chief executive Mitch Snyder said the "most advanced helicopter in production" would "help protect the country for decades to come".

The US government has also given the go-ahead for a series of munitions to be supplied with the aircraft, including Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II guided rockets.

It is only the second export sale of the AH-1Z, with Pakistan having committed to 12 examples.

Bahrain already operates 22 older AH-1s, which the country intends to retain and which have been undergoing upgrades. The RBAF said that project would be complete by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, Bell says it is working with authorities in the Middle East to introduce regulations to make it easier for on-demand helicopter taxis to operate, believing its 505 Jet Ranger X has "huge potential" in this sector. It plans to display the light-single at December's Middle East Business Aviation Association show in Dubai.

"A large number of 505 customers are new to helicopters," says Sameer Rehman, managing director Middle East & Africa for the Textron subsidiary. "One of the most exciting segments is air taxi. In this part of the world, the infrastructure exists in that there are plenty of places to land, but regulation does not yet exist."

Bell also expects a fifth Bell 525 Relentless to join the flight-test fleet in the first quarter of 2019, with Rehman saying the programme remains on track for certification before the end of next year. The super-medium helicopter was due for certification last year, but in July 2016 one of the flight-test aircraft suffered a fatal break-up in flight forcing postponement of the test campaign for 12 months.

Source: Flight International