ISLAMABAD - The United States has agreed to provide nine AH-1Z Viper Attack helicopters to Pakistan, said a statement issued by the US department of defence yesterday.

According to the statement, the United States Navy has awarded a contract of one hundred and seventy million dollars to Bell Helicopter to manufacture these choppers, which is expected to be completed in September 2018.

Bell Helicopter has been awarded the contract for the combat helicopters which will be manufactured and delivered to Pakistan under the Foreign Military Sales Programme.

The Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine combat chopper based on the previous Super Cobra model developed for the US Marine Corps. It has a top speed of 420 kilometres per hour and a range of 610 kilometres.

“Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $170,173,188 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year,” the defence department statement said. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity for Pakistan, it added.

In April 2015, the US department of state approved the possible sale to Pakistan for 15 AH-1Z Vipers with Hellfire missiles and support worth up to $952 million. The contract covered 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 government of Pakistan.

In February this year, the US government said it had approved the sale to Pakistan of up to eight F-16 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp, radar and other equipment in a deal valued at $699 million. The Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, said it had notified lawmakers about the possible deal.

The agency said the F-16s would allow Pakistan’s Air Force to operate in all-weather environments and at night, while improving its self-defence capability and bolstering its ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations.