Bell Textron has commenced the manufacture of the first AH-1Z Viper twin-engine attack helicopter for the Czech Republic Air Force.

The aircraft is being built at the company’s assembly centre in Amarillo, Texas, US.

The development follows after Bell Textron started production of the UH-1Y Venom helicopters for the country in July last year, marking the first production for an international operator of the UH-1Y.

Purchase of the military helicopters is being executed as part of the first foreign military sale (FMS) of a mixed H-1 fleet.

The Czech Republic is acquiring four AH-1Z and eight UH-1Y military helicopters.

Bell H-1 programme director and vice-president Mike Deslatte said: “Bell understands what it means to execute a successful international programme.

“We understand the importance of providing the unmatched capability of the H-1 aircraft to our customers. Bell remains focused on producing exceptional combat aircraft and providing modern capabilities for the Czech Air Force as a partner in the H-1 programme, along with the US Government.”

In addition, Bell will also develop a flight training device for the Czech Republic.

Delivery of the first H-1 aircraft to the Czech Republic will start next year and be completed by 2024.

The H-1 programme aims to produce 217 AH-1Zs and 168 UH-1Ys, with more than 100 consecutive H-1s delivered on time for the US Marines Corps (USMC) and FMS clients.

The firm is also involved in the production of AH-1Zs for the US Marines Corps (USMC) and Bahrain Air Force.

Both AH-1Z and UH-1Y share an 85% commonality between parts and feature full mission capabilities.