Royal Bahraini Air Force Inducts Bell AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters

Bahrain Inducts Bell AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters

In a significant boost to its military capabilities, Bahrain inducts Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters into service. The formal induction ceremony, graced by the presence of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, took place on 5 February, coinciding with the 56th anniversary of the Bahrain Defence Force. Demonstrating a departure from its US Marine Corps nomenclature, the RBAF has chosen to refer to its latest aerial combatant as the Al-Kobra Z, underscoring the nation’s unique identity and pride in its expanding fleet.

Project Bahrain Shield

The acquisition of these state-of-the-art helicopters was part of Project Bahrain Shield, marking a significant milestone in the RBAF’s ongoing efforts to reach the zenith of combat readiness. With this latest induction, the Royal Bahraini Air Force boasts one of the world’s most formidable AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter fleets. The fleet comprises 17 upgraded AH-1FB Cobras and 12 newly acquired AH-1Z Vipers, affectionately referred to as ‘Zulus’, showcasing a formidable aerial firepower capacity for the island nation.

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The Path to Acquisition

The path to this formidable fleet began on 27 April 2018, when the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the U.S. State Department’s approval of a potential sale to Bahrain. This deal, valued at approximately $911.4 million, included 12 AH-1Z attack helicopters, 26 T-700 GE 401C engines, 14 AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles, and 56 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS-II) WGU-59Bs. Bahrain confirmed the order for the 12 AH-1Zs in November 2018, with the first six delivered in mid-2022 and production concluding in December 2022. The final deliveries were made in 2023, marking a significant achievement for both Bahrain’s military capabilities and Bell’s production milestones.

The Bell AH-1Z Viper

The Bell AH-1Z Viper, a twin-engine attack helicopter, represents the pinnacle of aerospace engineering by Bell Helicopter. Originating from the AH-1W SuperCobra, the AH-1Z, or ‘Zulu Cobra’, embodies the modernization of the service’s existing fleet. Initially intended as a rebuild program, the project evolved into the procurement of new-build helicopters, culminating in the AH-1Z’s declaration of combat readiness by the USMC on 30 September 2010 and its full replacement of the AH-1W Super Cobra by October 2020.

A Strategic Enhancement

The Royal Bahraini Air Force’s induction of the Bell AH-1Z Viper not only signifies a leap in its combat readiness but also underscores the strategic depth and modernization of Bahrain’s defense capabilities in an ever-evolving global security landscape.

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