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Tue, Feb 21, 2023

Bell Completes Bahrain AH-1Z Program of Record

Strange Arithmetic

On 20 February 2023, Bell Textron Inc—the Fort Worth-based, rotorcraft manufacturing subsidiary of American industrial conglomerate Textron Inc—announced it had completed the AH-1Z program of record (POR) for the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bell delivered the final production aircraft to U.S. Naval Air Systems Command in December 2022.

Since the deal’s announcement at 2018’s Bahrain Air Show, six AH-1Zs have been delivered to the oil-rich Middle Eastern island nation in the Persian Gulf. The final six helicopters will be prepared for shipment to Bahrain with the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) before being transported to Bahrain in 2023.

Bell vice president and H-1 program director Mike Deslatte stated: “Congratulations to the Kingdom of Bahrain on obtaining the latest generation of the AH-1Zs, As a leader in the region, Bahrain’s defensive capabilities will be further bolstered by the advanced technologies of the Viper.”

The terminus of the Bahrain AH-1Z program of record follows closely on the heels of Bell’s completion of the U.S. Marine Corps program of record—thereby marking the actualization of two major H-1 production initiatives in one year.

The AH-1Z Viper is Bell’s newest dedicated attack helicopter. Currently, the U.S. Marine Corps operates the formidable machine around the world, availing itself of the type’s minimal shipboard and expeditionary logistical requirements.

To the subject of the AH-1Z’s spartan support prerequisites, Mr. Deslatte added: “Capabilities are only part of the equation when it comes to modernizing an aircraft fleet. By ensuring the aircraft can operate with minimal logistics support, the Viper enables leaders to react with greater speed and agility to rapidly evolving operations.” 

Bell continues to work with Kingdom of Bahrain on post-shipping inspections and re-assembly to guarantee configuration as defined in the procurement’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Case. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Case Development describes the formal requirements by which foreign governments acquire military assets from U.S. manufacturers. The FMS process begins when an eligible foreign country or international organization requests information on defense articles or services, including training, being considered for purchase. All requests for information require the same channels of submission and must be answered consistent with the legal provisions under which the FMS program operates.

Per the provisions of the Bell/Bahrain AH-1Z FMS agreement, Bell, in addition to manufacturing and delivering the new Vipers, will support the lifecycle of the aircraft to ensure reliability, survivability and lethality on the modern battlefield.

Developed during the 1990s and 2000s as a part of the H-1 upgrade program, Bell’s AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter is a modernization of the U.S. Marine Corps’ existing AH-1Ws, and the latest member of the storied Bell Huey family of utility and attack helicopters. The AH-1Z Viper attack and Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters share common tail-booms, engines, rotor systems, drivetrains, avionics and cockpit displays, software, and flight-controls. All told, component commonality between the two aircraft approaches 84% —however, the extent to which the UH-1Y and the AH-1Z are differentiated by the remaining 16% is startling.

Unlike its predecessor, the AH-1Z Viper features a bearing-less, composite main-rotor system, uprated transmission, and an upgraded target acquisition system. What’s more, to maximize crashworthiness, the Viper’s airframe was extensively redesigned to include energy-absorbing landing gear, fuel vapor inerting systems, self-sealing fuel tanks, energy-attenuating crashworthy seating, and a mass retention design approach applied to many major components.

Active AH-1Z systems include countermeasure dispensers, radar warning, incoming/on-way missile warning, on-fuselage laser spot warning systems, and CPI Aerostructures’s proprietary Hover Infrared Suppression System (HIRSS)—a clever architecture employed to obfuscate the exhaust heat signatures of the Viper’s twin, 1,800-shaft-horsepower General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines—thereby diminishing the helicopter’s susceptibility to heat-seeking weapon systems.

The AH-1Z’s performance envelope is defined by a Vne speed of 222-knots, a cruise speed of 160-knots, a combat range of 125-nautical-miles (with a 2,500-pound payload), a climb-rate of 2,790-feet-per-minute, and a service-ceiling of FL200. The aircraft’s empty and maximum gross takeoff weights are 12,300-pounds and 18,500-pounds respectively.

The AH-1Z’s unit cost is advertised as approximately $31-million, a figure that belies the $912-million Bahrain shelled out for 12 AH-1Z Vipers—which works out to a unit cost of $76-million per aircraft.

FMI: www.textron.com/About/Our-Businesses/Bell

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