American helicopters on the NATO Days: astonishment and disillusion

 27. 09. 2019      category: Army of the Czech Republic

Bell UH-1Y Venom and Bell AH-1Z Viper, i.e. a pair of helicopters, which the Army of the Czech Republic wants, should be be included till 2023 - after signing a contract - into the assets of the Air Forces of the Czech Army. For most of visitors of the NATO Days, it was the first acquaintance with this equipment. Several questions have been also asked. 

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Picture: Bell UH-1Y Venom | army.cz

If we look at the both machines, the first idea that comes into your mind is protection of the Venom crew. The air gunner has to open the door, what - in case of repeated firing - can threaten the whole helicopter crew. Nobody of the present soldiers was able to answer for these and a lot of other questions, but pure rush, sell of T-shirts, baseball caps and other promotional articles worked excellently. For many people it was considerable disillusion.

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Picture: Bell UH-1Y Venom helicopter’s cockpit | army.cz

In addition, this whole thing was enforced by that-time published Josef Klíma’s reportage on TV Seznam, which brought a series of other questions regarding the procurement of the American helicopters, for example, whether our army is going to buy really the most expensive solution with probably zero spreading in the world, both in the present time and in the future (excepting the US Marine Corps)? Just for illustration, only 160 pieces have been produced up to these days, in contrast to the AW139 helicopter, of which was produced 770 pieces. How much the Czech Republic will really pay for these helicopters? What kind of service background will then be? Will really LOM Prague be a service background for the BELL helicopters not only for the Czech Republic but for Europe?

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Picture: Bell AH-1Z Viper | army.cz

We can get knowledge of the following facts from the above-mentioned reportage. The Americans has offered either twelve UH-60M Black Hawk for 13.2 milliard CZK or eight UH-1Y Venom helicopters together with four AH-1Z Viper fighting helicopters in the total amount of 14.5 milliard CZK. According to Minister of Defence Lubomír Metnar (ANO), the combination of two machines is more suitable, and he would like to sign a contract till the end of the year.

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Picture: Bell AH-1Z Viper | army.cz

One, however, can ask himself why this is so, while from the very beginning of the tender, which has been started five years ago, absolutely other helicopters best corresponded with the submission? Concretely, these were Italian helicopters (AW 139), which, among the other things, were – and after price correction there are – by half cheaper. Is it matter of political decision at the expense of the professional one? The question also remains why through the years the team of experts, which initially selected helicopters, was changed.

 Author: Martin Šiška