Czech Republic’s Deputy Minister of Defense Walks H-1 Production Line Ahead of First Delivery
Deputy Minister Frantisek Sulc and Brig. Gen. Petr Cepelka, Commander of the Czech Air Force, visited the Bell Amarillo Assembly Center H-1 production line in March to catch a glimpse of the Czech Republic Air Force’s future fleet of AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters.
“It is great to be here to see the final stage of delivering our aircraft,” said Minister Sulc. “This is a very important step for the modernization of the Czech Army.”
The event was hosted by Bell Textron and attended by leadership from Naval Air Systems Command, members of the Czech Republic Air Force and other stakeholders supporting foreign military sales.
Visitors were given an end-to-end tour of the H-1 production line, previewing the Czech aircraft at various stages of the manufacturing process. The tour ended with the unveiling of the first AH-1Z in the country’s unique paint scheme, a blend of grays and green camouflage.
In 2019, the Czech Republic selected the H-1, specifically four AH-1Z and eight UH-1Y aircraft, to modernize the country’s armed forces and strengthen its homeland defense. First delivery is expected later this spring.
Prior to aircraft transfer, an initial team of Czech aircrew and maintainers had the opportunity to complete the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron (HMLAT) 303 training pipeline; they graduated earlier this year. The students completed the courses and hands-on training utilized by the U.S. Marine Corps’ military occupational specialties for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y. The syllabus was designed to provide the initial knowledge, skills, and experience required to maintain, operate, and fly the H-1 platform.
Once back in country, the H-1 crew will continue training, working with representatives from the H-1 original equipment manufacturer, Bell, and their supplier, Pinnacle Solutions. Based on a “train-the-trainer” model, pilots, crew chiefs and maintainers will learn the final skills required to operate and sustain its fleet of AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters, and train other members of its force.
The Czech Air Force squadron is expected to be independently operating in late 2024.
PMA-276 manages the cradle to grave procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the Marine Corps rotary wing close air support, anti-armor, armed escort, armed/visual reconnaissance and fire support program systems. In addition, PMA-276 manages the production, delivery, fielding and sustainment of the H-1 aircraft to multiple foreign military sales customers.