“I am delighted to return to Amarillo after almost exactly a year and see the first AH-1Z helicopter, which will soon be sent to the Czech Armed Forces,” said First Deputy Minister František Šulc. “It is an important step in the modernization of the Czech Armed Forces.”
Every new helicopter manufactured must be first taken over by the U. S. Government and only then can the Czech Armed Forces accept them. The first units will arrive the Czech Republic next month.
According to BG Petr Čepelka, the U.S. machines will bring whole new capabilities, employment scenarios and represent an integrated system that will usher the Czech Helicopter Air Force into the 21st century. “The Czech Armed Forces shall receive two types of helicopters with similar performance capabilities, which can keep up with each other. The Vipers provide offensive close air support and Venoms provide, alone or in cooperation, maneuvering, airlift and close air support,” BG Čepelka underscored.
The advantages of the of the new machines include a glass cockpit with large LCD panels, automated air control system with integrated satellite and inertial navigation, as well as commonality in both design (engines, rotors, electronics and avionics) and flight envelope. “The pilots are able to switch between the two types, which allows among other interchangeability of parts for Venom and Viper and therefore simpler logistics,” BG Čepelka emphasized and added that the Czech Armed Forces shall receive corresponding weapons along with the helicopters: Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
The 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base is currently equipped with Mi-24V/35 attack helicopters and Mi-171Sh multipurpose helicopters. Both types became obsolescent many years ago, which is why the then Minister Lubomír Metnar and his counterpart Secretary Mark Esper signed a G2G agreement on the acquisition of 12 new H1 helicopters in 2019.
The Czech Republic shall receive additional eight, used but fully serviceable, machines (2x UH-1Y Venom and 6x AH-1Z Viper) from the U.S. free of charge to backfill the Czech support provided to Ukraine. Thanks to the agreement between the Minister of Defence Jana Černochová and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, the total number of helicopters received shall increase to 10 UH-1Y and 10 AH-1Z.
Introductory training in the U.S. completed, simulator recently arrived the Czech Republic
The pilots and mechanics from the Helicopter Air Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou were retrained for the operation of new helicopters at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton starting last July. The flight personnel even received helmets tailored to their measurement in the United States. The demanding seven-month basic training included IFR flying, formation and low level flying, sling load and hoist training. The highlights of the training were the flights with life fire at ground targets with cannon and unguided rockets and night flights. Each pilot spent approximately 80 hours airborne.
The following courses shall continue in the Czech Republic under the command of the U. S. Mobile Training Team (MTT) for the next two years, until the pilots and mechanics learn the full extent of the operation and maintenance of the aircraft.
In March, the first of two training simulators arrived to the Czech Republic. LOM Praha shall operate them in the simulation center at the Náměšť nad Oslavou Air Base. The building designated H1 shall provide the trainees with lecture rooms, mission planning offices and facilities necessary for the ground and flight personnel. The simulator offers all controls and weapon systems of a real helicopter. The software is connected to the planning system, which the pilots use to prepare for missions. LOM Praha shall also provide life cycle support including higher levels of maintenance. Local specialists are currently being trained for the maintenance of H1 helicopters.
The Czech Air Force already received the initial sets of spares for the Venom and Viper, as well as ground support equipment to check the helicopters, aircraft maintenance stands, electrical start cart and other equipment. This materiel shall be delivered to the Czech Republic in phases in a total of eighty 40ft shipping containers.