The US Government has signed an agreement to sell Bell Helicopter-built 12 helicopters to the Czech Republic in a deal valued at up to $650m.

The Government of the Czech Republic is purchasing four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and eight UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters for the Czech Air Force.

The deal was finalised at a meeting between US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Czech Republic Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar at the Pentagon on 12 December.

The proposed sale represents the Czech Republic’s largest military procurement from the US Government.

Mark Esper stated that the purchase will support the Czech Military’s efforts to replace the existing Russian-made helicopters.

The procurement of the US helicopters will also enable interoperability with Nato partners. Deliveries under the deal are expected to begin in 2023.

An announcement was made by the Czech Ministry of Defence in August about the selection of Venom and Viper helicopters.

In response, Bell Helicopter made a statement on Twitter at that time. The tweet read: “We are proud to acknowledge the Czech Republic’s decision to acquire the first foreign military mixed fleet of Bell UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters.”

The Czech Republic is looking to replace the ageing Russian Mi-24, Mi-171 and Mi-35 helicopters in its inventory.

The acquisition is also part of the modernisation programme of the country’s armed forces.

The UH-1Y Venom provides support to a range of missions, including utility, search and rescue, aerial reconnaissance, air-to-ground support, escort, and special operations.