Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said on March 22 that the US offered to sell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to the country.

Notably, Slovakia only needs to pay a third of the total value of the order, equivalent to $340 million within 3-4 years for a package worth more than a billion USD. The deal will include training activities and more than 500 AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles. The new attack helicopters will significantly enhance the defense potential of Slovakia.

With a history of nearly 50 years, the AH-1 Cobra is one of the most famous attack helicopters in the world. And following the success of the AH-1 Cobra, the AH-1Z Viper, arguably the most powerful variant of the series. The AH-1Z Viper development program was conceived by the US Marines in the mid-1990s and officially entered service in 2012. The US Marine Corps owns about 200 AH-1Z in service. They are also the main line of attack helicopters deployed on amphibious assault ships.

AH-1Z Viper has a length of 17.8m, a height of 4.37m and a rotor diameter of 14.6m. Each AH-1Z can carry more than 2 tons of weapons and military equipment. As an upgraded version, the appearance of AH-1Z and its predecessor is not much different. The cockpit is still a tandem seating arrangement, the pilot sits in the rear and the gunner is in the front. The digital cockpit layout of the pilots is identical.

The most valuable upgrade of the AH-1Z is the integrated avionics system, developed by Northrop Grumman. The system includes two mission computers and an automatic flight control system. The flight capability of the AH-1Z has also improved significantly through the use of the 4-blade main rotor instead of the two blades on previous versions. New rotor system uses composite material, which have an increased ballistic survivability, and there is a semiautomatic folding system for storage aboard amphibious assault ships.

To ensure the maneuverability of the helicopter, Bell equipped Viper with two new General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines, delivering 1,800 horsepower each. This attack helicopter can reach a maximum speed of 337 km/h, a range of 425 km or up to 715 km with external fuel tanks.

Viper’s weapon is quite versatile, it can carry about 2 tons of various weapons on stub-wings. On each stub-wing there are three hard points. Each wingtip station can carry an AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. Other hard points can carry AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, pods with 70 mm unguided rockets. It can be also fitted with free-fall bombs, including the Mk.77 incendiary bombs. Another weapon is a 20mm three-barrel cannon on the chin.

The Slovak government approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets. Slovakia previously signed a deal to buy 14 U.S. F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets, but delivery was pushed back two years with the first aircraft to arrive in early 2024.

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