The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) awarded a $9.06 m U.S. contract to General Dynamics-OTS Inc. (GD-OTS) to supply 41 A/A49E-7(v4) gun turrets for U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and Pakistan Army AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters. The Pakistani portion constitutes 34% of the contract at $3.1 million.
The Pakistan Army chose to fit the GD-OTS A/A49E-7(v4) turrets of its AH-1Z with the M197 20mm cannon.
In 2015, the U.S. State Department had approved a $952 million sale of 15 AH-1Z and 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire-II air-to-ground missiles to Pakistan. The DoD issued a contract to Bell Helicopter in August 2015 for the first three aircraft, this was followed by a follow-up order for an additional nine in April 2016.
In June, Bell Helicopterâ€™s vice president of international military sales, Rich Harris, announced that the first three of Pakistanâ€™s AH-1Zs were undergoing final assembly in Amarillo, Texas. In August, photos emerged of the first Pakistan Army AH-1Z. Harris stated that the first batch was due for delivery to Pakistan in 2017.
The U.S. Department of Navy also recently awarded Textron Systems a $2.5 million contract to supply five Advanced Boresight Equipment (ABE) Model-310A systems for Pakistanâ€™s AH-1Z program. Textron describes the ABE Model-310A as a â€œuniversal computerized measurement system capable of aligning armament, navigation, electro-optic sight sensors and missile warning systems on a variety of platforms.â€
The AH-1Z is a twin-engine attack helicopter with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 8.4 tons Pakistanâ€™s AH-1Zs will come similarly equipped as their USMC counterparts.
The AH-1Z program is also Pakistanâ€™s largest deal with Textron, which owns Bell Helicopter. Since 2001, Pakistan has procured from Textronâ€™s various subsidiaries, including Cessna (Cess 208 and T206H), Bell Helicopter (AH-1Z and Bell 412EP) and Beechcraft (King Air 350ER).
It is unclear if Pakistan will order the remaining three AH-1Z from the approved contract. It would make sense to do so considering it is already spending in raising the requisite support infrastructure. The AH-1Z will join the Mi-35M and, prospectively, the T129 in modernizing the Armyâ€™s attack helicopter fleet.