On 6 July, Slovakia’s Ministry of Defence submitted a request for a price quotation for 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to the US.

The helicopters would usually command a valuation of more than $1bn, but, as part of deal that involved Slovakia donating MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, Slovakia hopes to see the US discount the sale by almost two thirds, providing Slovakia with its only military helicopter fleet for approximately $340m, to be paid over 3-4 years.

The Bell AH-17 Viper attack helicopter is derived from the AH-1 SuperCobra, with improvements to rotor technology, weapons systems and avionics, and a redesigned airframe to improve survivability.

Unusual delays

Considering that the Viper helicopters have already been produced, the expected wait on delivery, estimated to be 3 years by the Slovak MoD, is considerably longer than would be expected. Slovikia’s Defence Minister Martin Skelnár attributed this to the complexity and specific nature of this deal, noting that the helicopters and their spare parts need to be removed from storage and returned to service. This process requires a team of mall and medium enterprises (SME) from the US to review the condition of the equipment.

Participation of the SME’s is essential elsewhere in providing a final price quotation, with the team reviewing individual areas of the package related to logistics, ammunition, maintenance and training, among other areas. The figure they arrive at will then be included in a formal notification to the US Congress, and with Congressional approval granted work can then begin on refurbishing the helicopters.

Viper discount for Ukraine support

In March, Jaroslav Nad, who was Slovakia’s Defence Minister at the time, announced the offer by the US to sell Slovakia the 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles. The announcement included information on the discount the nation would receive from the US, noting the discount of approximately $660m, with that cost to be picked up by the US Department of Defense’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) Programme.

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“This offer is hugely advantageous and will significantly increase Slovakia’s defence potential,” said Nad. “Currently, we have no combat helicopters, so it would be a completely new combat capability.”

Slovakia is seeking to modernise its armed forces and replace obsolete equipment, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) 2023 Military Balance report, an ambition that dovetails with the acquisition of the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and the donation of the MiG-29 jets to Ukraine.

Slovakia completed the delivery of MiG-29 jets in March, transferring the last of the complete fleet of 13 aircraft along with Kib missile systems, as part of a deal with compensation to be valued at around $900m. As well as the US DoD discount on the AH-17 Viper package worth $660m, Slovakia will receive €250m ($269m) from the European Union, Nad announced on 22 March.