Our pilots and technicians are already being trained in America for the new Venom and Viper helicopters that will arrive in the Czech Republic next year
In July, two groups of pilots and technicians from Náměšť left for the USA, where they will be retrained for six months on the new UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters at one of the largest US Marine Corps bases, Pendleton. A total of 12 Bell H1 helicopters will replace the outdated Mi-35/24V machines of Soviet origin. The Czech Army will receive the first units in 2023.
Picture: In July, two groups of pilots and technicians from Náměšť left for the USA, where they will spend six months retraining on the new UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters at one of the largest US Marine Corps bases, Pendleton. | Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic
"Flying personnel and ground technical staff are taking part in the several-month training in the USA, in the fields of pilot, flight engineer and ground technician," confirmed Lieutenant Colonel Ivo Pacovský, Deputy Commander of the 22nd Helicopter Wing.
The training, which consists of both theory and practical parts, will last for technicians until the end of this year, while pilots and flight engineers will spend two months longer at USMC Pendleton. During the theory course, the soldiers will learn about the helicopter's design, avionics and how to operate the machine, according to Lt. Col. Pacovsky. Pilots and flight engineers will then receive flight training. The intention is that the returning technicians will have a type certificate to work on the aviation equipment. The plan is also to move the training of other personnel to the Czech Republic in the future.
"Our flying personnel in the USA use standard helmets, the same as American pilots, only the inner liner is shaped exactly to the head of each pilot and flight engineer so that it fits perfectly and does not press," Pacovský revealed.
A total of 12 H1 system helicopters (8 UH-1Y Venom multirole machines and four AH-1Z Viper fighters) will replace Mi-35/24V gunships in the Czech army's arsenal starting in 2023. According to the schedule, the arrival of the first helicopters is expected in the first quarter of next year.
Bell's mobile training team will train local personnel at the base in Náměšť nad Oslavou for two years before they fully master the system of helicopter operation and maintenance. The Czech defence industry, including state-owned companies LOM Praha and VTÚ, as well as Ray Service, Aero Vodochody and VR Group, will contribute more than a third of the contract. LOM Praha will provide life cycle support for the helicopters, which will take place at the new H1 plant. A simulation centre will be built in Náměšť nad Oslavou to train ground and flying personnel on the new machines.
The H-1 plant is a complex system consisting of three basic parts. It has a logistics part, which will ensure the receipt of material for the new helicopters and will be responsible for ensuring the supply of other material needed to secure the H1 life cycle. The next part is the H1 simulator, which is currently under construction. The third part is dedicated to the maintenance and repair of the H1. These three parts are currently being filled with qualified personnel.
In the first phase, approximately 15 positions will be filled within the H1 plant, with a view to expansion as helicopters arrive and capabilities are acquired. The plant will subsequently expand and the target metric for the H1 plant is to build hangars to perform D-level maintenance.
The intergovernmental agreement for the purchase of 8 UH-1Y Venom multi-role helicopters and 4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters was signed on 12 December 2019 by the then Secretaries of Defense of the Czech Republic and the US, Lubomir Metnar and Mark Esper.
However, according to Defence Minister Jana Černochová, a total of twelve units of both types of helicopters is not enough: "We would like to have more than 12 helicopters in the future, ideally 24. The war in Ukraine has clearly shown that air support is necessary in a conventional conflict," Černochová said in June during her visit to the 22nd Helicopter Air Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou, adding that she agreed with the representatives of the Air Force and the Náměšť garrison to create a concept that will determine the direction in which the helicopter air force should be further developed.