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Lockheed Martin awarded TSS contract for Pakistani AH-1Z
June 26, 2017
AH-1Z-Viper-USMC
The USMC AH-1Z Viper. Photo credit: Bell Helicopters

Lockheed Martin awarded TSS contract for Pakistani AH-1Z

The U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to supply its AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight Systems (TSS) for Pakistan’s Bell AH-1Z Viper dedicated attack helicopters.

The contract awarded as part of a larger sale – valued USD $151 million – for TSS units for both U.S. and Pakistani AH-1Zs. The Pakistani order (made under the Foreign Military Sales program) constitutes 12% of the contract (i.e. USD $18.12 million).

The AN/AAQ-30 TSS is essentially an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor capable of nighttime imaging and laser-designation (for air-to-surface missiles such as the AGM-114R Hellfire II).

This is the second Pakistani TSS contract, the first being issued in January (for USD $14.2 million).

Notes & Comments:

In April 2015, the U.S. approved a proposed sale of 15 Bell Helicopters AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan. The USD $952 million deal included the aircraft, 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire II air-to-surface laser-guided missiles, and requisite training, logistics, and maintenance support.

In August 2015 and April 2016, Pakistan ordered two and nine AH-1Z units, respectively. The TSS orders from January and December of this year correspond with those unit orders. As there were no options listed in the State Department notice, one should expect Pakistan to order the final four units.

In parallel with the AH-1Z program, the Pakistan Army will also induct four Mi-35 Hind assault helicopters, which it ordered from Russia in 2015 for USD $153 million. IHS Jane’s was told by Pakistani officials that the Army could procure a total of up to 20 Mi-35s.

Pakistan is also flying the Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC). Z-10. It had also evaluated the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T-129. While the Pakistan Army is evidently seeking another dedicated attack helicopter platform, it is not clear how it intends to utilize a secondary platform.

The TAI T-129, while boasting superb hot-and-high flight attributes, is fundamentally a lightweight design. However, TAI, in collaboration with Meteksan, is testing the MİLDAR millimeter wave radar.

The CAIC Z-10 was recently spotted in a desert area in Punjab (i.e. Khairpur-Tamiwali near Bahawalpur), where it appeared to have been used as a close air support (CAS) platform for armour and infantry.

Pakistan was also reportedly interested in Mil Mi-28NE, which is among Russia’s newest attack helicopter platforms and, in contrast to the T-129 and Z-10, is a heavyweight design analogous to the AH-64.

Given the range of platforms it is examining, the Pakistan Army may simply be in the process of trying to determine which operational environments outside of counterinsurgency (COIN) require dedicated attack helicopters. Consequently, various platforms have been tested to their respective strengths, but a final decision is far from imminent.

Pakistan’s final decision will be shaped by how it intends to use its alternate attack helicopter platform. For example, a strong focus on anti-armour operations in Punjab and in Sindh would position a heavyweight platform such as the Mi-28NE (or Rooivalk Mk2) favourably. If unavailable, the Z-10 could be viewed as a medium-weight alternative for the same role. Alternatively, an emphasis on providing infantry in higher altitude mountainous areas would necessitate the T-129.

With the COIN effort set to continue, Pakistan’s attack helicopter fleet is poised to see heavy use in the coming years. With current AH-1F/S at the end of their lifespans, it would not be surprising if additional AH-1Zs are sought, especially under the Foreign Military Financing program, which is poised to resume (albeit with additional scrutiny in Washington).

  • Catalyst

    It might be a far-sighted idea but could it be that Pakistan is looking into “Expeditionary” capability for Pakistan Navy? AH-1Z is primarily a “Marine” asset, and with the focus being shifted to the Navy, could it be that Pakistan is looking into expeditionary capability with LHDs in the not-so-immediate future?

  • Freebird

    There is a common mistake done by both Pakistan and India. These countries keep multiple systems on same type of arms in their inventories. However, this is seriously problematic for the army. In many occasions, different systems require different type of ammunition and spare parts. Consider there are x missile and x spare part for Mi-28; y missile and y spare part for z-10 and k missile and k spare part for ah-1z, when no x is left but plenty of y and k are available Mi-28s are automatically out of war. Another problem: If Pakistan, for example, adds a new missile in its inventory then the army will have to do upgrades on 3 different systems paying to different contractors.

    • Keyser

      This I would suggest is not a “Mistake” in the sense that it came about as a result of sanctions in the past. This allows the PA to operate in a fluctuating political environment.

    • jamshed_kharian_pak

      We are used to speaking different local and foreign languages, so we are in nature multidimensional

    • Shershahsuri

      I agree with you. It will be difficult for PA to maintain, repair and procure munition for different platforms.

  • Keyser

    At the moment the Z10 ,ATAK129 and Z10 are only under evaluation ( the Chinese get free combat testing for their attack helicopter.) The MIL35 is likely going to be used as a specialist platform for SOF ( It doesn’t really have an equivalent.)

    So it will only be two platforms and the MIL35 for specialist roles.

  • Keyser

    Well then PAK will go to the alternate sources that they have been evaluating Z10, ATAK129 MIL28NE etc.

  • jamshed_kharian_pak

    Pak Navy compares in size of IR Pakistan it must be around One Hundred Thausands in this case more machine are needed

  • jamshed_kharian_pak

    Peoples and Armed Forces are not dependent on USA aide But Pakistani Politions yes, they have placed their money over there, Economic Sanctions against Cuba or IR Iran proven Result Zero, in few coming years personally I think USA is out of the Muslim World and from South Central Asia

  • Sami Shahid

    USA agreed to provide this equipment because Pakistan and Russia are getting closer on the Afghanistan issue. USA should also allow BELL to provide an over haul service to our Ah-1F cobra’s.

  • Tariq Saeed

    I am a chopper pilot. I have a experience on multiple machines. Trust me in my quarter of a century experience i have learnt this is the best approach. US had been offering us AH1Z ffor last 7 yrs but every time when we are close to a deal they would stop the process on one or the other plea. It is only once we seriously pursued for other options US felt like having no options but sell the zulus to us. I am still not confident whether they will ever actually arrive Pak. However keeping multiple types of machines leaves you with other options to work on during hostilities as US has sanctioned supply of arms in all wars against India. Chinese and Turks are reliable sources. Russia apparently seems reliable but only time will tell.

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