Bell Textron has been awarded a $22.5m firm-fixed-price contract to provide up to 24 months of in-country aircraft maintenance for eight UH-1Y and four AH-1Z helicopters, and up to 36 months of in-country contractor engineers services, for the Czech Republic.

The contract, which is expected to be completed by 2026 and sees Foreign Military Sales funds of $11m obligated at the time of the award, will support the Czech Republic’s recent acquisition of the UH-1Y and AH-1Z platforms to replace its ageing Russian-origin transport and attack fleet with new or refurbished aircraft from the US.

The Czech Air Force currently operates two types of transport helicopters (Mi-17s and W-3A Sokols) and single attack helicopter type (Mi-24/35). All of these helicopters were bought second hand from Russia and Poland and are almost obsolete.

In May the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency revealed a request from the Czech Republic to procure equipment and services to refurbish six AH-1Z attack helicopters and two UH-1Y transport helicopters, which would be taken up from excess defence stock.

In order to completely replace the Mi-35/24Vs, with eight units currently in inventory, the Czech Government made an additional request for six units in 2023. The total request to replace Soviet-era Mi-24/35 is now for ten AH-1Z (four in 2019 and six in 2023).

A 2019 Government-to-Government agreement between the Czech Republic and the US saw a requirement of 12 helicopters. However, the US is donating an additional eight, bringing up the combined fleet total to 20 helicopters, with ten UH-1Y and 10 AH-1Z platforms.

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In February 2022 Bell Textron said that production work on the four AH-1Z aircraft had begun, following the start of manufacture for the UH-1Y platforms in July 2021.

According to GlobalData defence analysis, in 2022 the Czech defence budget saw a gradual and steady increase over the historic 2018–22 period, rising from $2.7bn in 2018 to $4.2bn in 2022. This steady growth trend is expected to continue, rising to a defence spend of $5.7bn in 2027.