Pakistan prepares for inducting AH-1Z attack helicopters
December 6, 2023
Bell Helicopter AH-1Z Viper. Photo source: Bell Helicopter

Pakistan prepares for inducting AH-1Z attack helicopters

The Pakistan Army’s Military Engineer Services (MES) branch released a tender calling for the construction of a hangar, connecting tarmacs and organizational and intermediate-level maintenance facilities for the Textron Bell Helicopter AH-1Z Viper.

Tenders are to be submitted to the Pakistan Army Engineer-in-Chief at general headquarters in Rawalpindi by 15 March 2018. The new facilities are to be built at the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps’ (PAA) airbase in Multan in Punjab. The total value of the AH-1Z-related construction work at Multan is $5.3 million U.S.

The Pakistan Army has 12 AH-1Z on order from a contract approved by the U.S. State Department in 2015 for 15 AH-1Z and 1,000 AGM-114R anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) worth $952 million. Pakistan issued orders for the aircraft in August 2015 (three) and April 2016 (nine).

Recent tension between Islamabad and Washington regarding the transfer (or lack thereof) of Coalition Support Funds and Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas cast uncertainty on whether the AH-1Zs would be delivered. However, Bell Helicopter stated that production of Pakistan’s aircraft is slated to continue, though it did not provide an update on when the first three aircraft will be delivered.

The MES tender suggests that the program is continuing and that the AH-1Z will factor into the PAA’s fleet in the near-term. However, this would apply to delivery, it is not known when the AH-1Z would be cleared for forward deployment and combat operations.

In addition to AH-1Z infrastructure, the MES tender also requires for the construction of an igloo for the LY-80 low-to-medium-range air defence system (LOMADS) at Khanewal. Khanewal is 40-45 km away from Multan, coinciding with the range of the LY-80 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system (40 km).

The Pakistan Army formally inducted the LY-80 in March 2017, following two separate orders for the SAM system in 2013-2014 ($260 m) and 2014-2015 ($373 m) from China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation. In total, nine LY-80 systems were ordered.

The LY-80 uses a semi-active radar-homing missile with a range of 40 km. An LY-80 system uses an S-band passive electronically-scanned array (PESA) target-search radar (IBIS-150) with a range of 150 km. This is complemented by multiple L-band target-tracking and missile-guidance PESA radars, each with a range of 85 km and capacity to track up to four targets.