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DoD awards contract to Bell for Pakistani AH-1Z

By Bilal Khan

In April 2015 Pakistan submitted a request for the sale of 15 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters alongside 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire-II multipurpose air-to-surface missiles for $952mn U.S. The U.S Department of Defense has just awarded Bell to build the first two units.

Over the course of its internal campaigns in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan’s existing fleet of AH-1F Cobras have seen extensive use in supporting the Army’s ground operations. However, airframe ageing and use-stress have raised the need for replacement units, cue the AH-1Z Viper.

Although it is clear that the main purpose of the AH-1Z is to strengthen Pakistan’s counter-insurgency capabilities, the Army is reportedly also studying the Chinese WZ-10 Thunderbolt. Three WZ-10s were transferred to Pakistan for testing. This might be an indication that Pakistan is looking to safeguard its attack helicopter fleet against sanctions, suggesting that attack helicopters may serve also major role against external threats.

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