LAHORE - US Department of Defence (DoD) announced on Wednesday night that it has awarded Bell Helicopter a $581 million contract that includes the delivery of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan.
Although Pakistan had requested the sale of 15 AH-1Z helicopters in April, it is not clear how many of the 15 helicopters have been signed for at this stage.
The notification by the US DoD stated that 10% ($57.9 million) of the overall contract value covered 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 the AH-1Z and Hellfire II capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), 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.
“An agreement was signed between Pakistan and Russian authorities in Rawalpindi for the purchase of four MI-35 helicopters,” said a senior military official. The official, however, did not provide any further details about the deal, or shed any light on the configuration of the helicopters which Pakistan will receive. No timeline for delivery of the helicopters was revealed.