Two AH-1Z Vipers have arrived in the Czech Republic this week, marking the first in-country delivery as part of a partnership with the US Marine Corps H-1 Light/Attack Helicopter program office (PMA-276) and industry partner, Bell.
In 2019, the Czech Republic selected the H-1 to modernize the country’s armed forces and strengthen its homeland defense and the country is expected to be independently operating by late-2024. A lot has transpired since the initial contract.
From a training perspective, an initial team of Czech aircrew and maintainers had the opportunity to complete the Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Training Squadron (HMLAT) 303 training pipeline, graduating earlier this year. Beginning this fall, H-1 crews will train alongside representatives from Bell, and its supplier, Pinnacle Solutions, through a “train-the-trainer” model. Pilots, crew chiefs and maintainers will learn the additional skills required to operate and sustain its fleet of AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters, and train other members of its force.
In addition, the country has a Flight Training Device (FTD) to support skills development, offering access to the controls and weapon systems for preparation purposes. The Czech Republic FTD broke ground in March 2023 and construction will finish in time to begin training this fall.
Now, with the aircraft in-country, the Czech Air Force can begin the acceptance process and over the next 12 months, additional aircraft will arrive based on the production schedule. The Czech Air Force squadron is expected to be independently operating in late-2024.
“Four years ago, we embarked on a journey with the Czech Republic Air Force to deliver the H-1 family of aircraft, including four AH-1Z and eight UH-1Y helicopters,” said Col. Vasilios Pappas, PMA-276 program manager. “Since then, we have worked together to award the required contracts, deliver the applicable logistics equipment, develop a training program and so much more, all in preparation for this delivery. This is a remarkable milestone.”
PMA-276 manages the end-to-end procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the Marine Corps and international customers H-1 family of aircraft.