Skip to content

Pakistan Acquires US And Chinese Attack Helos

April 13, 2015
US AH-1Z Cobra attach helicopter

Via Bell Helicopter.

Within the span of a week, Pakistan reportedly acquired separate attack helicopters from the US and China. These are the Bell AH-1Z Viper and the CAIG Z-10.

Pakistan’s army and air force continue battling militants in Waziristan after high-profile terrorist attacks last year in Karachi and Peshawar. Although the armed forces’ firepower is considerable, its capability gaps and large inventories of aging weapon systems are apparent.

Pakistan’s Army Air Corps first received a small batch of Cobra attack helicopters between 1983-84. Pakistan has a long history of importing US arms and the arrival of Cobras coincided with its long-term support against the Soviets in Afghanistan. From 2007 to 2010 an additional 24 Cobra gunships were delivered to Pakistan for the express purpose of targeting militants.

On April6, 2015, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced “a determination approving possible Foreign Military Sale” for 15 AH-1Z Vipers together with munitions and spare parts worth $952 million. The AH-1Z is the most modern variant of the original AH-1 gunship that first saw action during the Vietnam War.

The AH-1Z, which is flown by the US Marine Corps, is a twin engine attack helicopter with modern avionics and six hard points for mounting weapons. The Cobra is distinct for its nose-mounted three-barrel 20mm cannon and its landing skids. The AH-1Z is built with the same parts of the UH-1Y Huey–they even share similar tail sections and engine compartments.

The DSCA package includes:

  • 15 AH-1Z attack helicopters
  • 32 T-700 GE 401C engines (30 installed and two spare parts)
  • 36 H-1 Technical Refresh Mission Computers
  • 17 AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight Systems
  • 30 629F-23 High Frequency Communication Systems
  • 19 H-764 embedded GPS
  • 32 Helmet Mounted Display/Optimized Top Owl
  • 17 APX-117A IFF
  • 17 AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems
  • 17 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Sets
  • 18 AN/APR-39c(V)2 Radar Warning Receivers
  • 17 M197 20mm guns
  • 1,000 AGM-114 R Hellfire II anti-tank missiles

It’s apparent the DSCA and Bell Helicopter are providing the whole AH-1Z system together with spares.

By 2016 the total number of Cobra/Viper gunships flown by Pakistan could reach 60. More than 1,100 Cobra’s and its successor variants have been built since 1967.

Chinese Z-10 in Pakistan

Image leaked of Z-10 gunships from January 2015.

The AH-1Z sale comes three months after Chinese-made Z-10’s were reportedly delivered to Pakistan. The Taiwan-based Want China Times broke the news during the first week of January and low-res images later surfaced showing a trio of Z-10’s at an unspecified hangar. The same media outlet reported the Z-10 had undergone testing this April.

An even earlier report, albeit short, was made by a Pakistani news site The News Tribe. The arrival of the Z-10’s have gone viral but exact details about their transfer are scarce.

The Z-10’s origins date to the 1990s and it entered service between 2010-2012. A hundred Z-10’s could now be deployed in the PLA’s light helicopter brigades.

Whether Pakistan is ready to buy more Z-10’s is a question mark. The Army Air Corps could be interested in other foreign models while maintaining their existing fleet of Cobra and Viper gunships.