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Czech Republic receives 1st Bell H-1 helicopter

Czech pilots training on UH-1Y Venom
Photo: Czech Army

The Czech Armed Forces received their first Bell H1 helicopter in a ceremony in Texas on April 4th.

The first H1 helicopter was delivered to the Czech Armed Forces in a handover ceremony at the Bell Textron factory in Amarillo, Texas, attended by the First Deputy Minister of Defence, František Šulc, and the Czech Air Force Commander, Brigadier General Petr Čepelka.

The Czech Republic will receive 12 new H1 helicopters, eight UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, under a 2019 government-to-government agreement to replace obsolete helicopters at the 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base. The first delivered helicopter is expected to arrive in the Czech Republic next month, according to the defense ministry.

US Navy photo of the handover ceremony

In exchange for support provided to Ukraine, the Czech Republic will also be getting an additional eight fully serviceable helicopters (2x UH-1Y Venom and 6x AH-1Z Viper) from the United States for free. This increases the total number of helicopters received from the US to 10 UH-1Y and 10 AH-1Z, under the agreement signed by Minister of Defence Jana Černochová and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.

The Czech Armed Forces will also take delivery of compatible weapons with the helicopters, including Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

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 for seven months, including flights with live fire and night flights. A US mobile training team will continue courses in the Czech Republic for two more years.

“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.”

The new machines offer several advantages, including a glass cockpit with large LCD panels, an automated air control system with integrated satellite and inertial navigation, and commonality in both design and flight envelope, such as engines, rotors, electronics, and avionics.