The US has announced a contract to Bell Helicopter for supplying nine AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan under a fully funded Foreign Military Sales (FMS) scheme.
These helicopters are from a lot of 15 requested by Pakistan, and cleared by the US state department in April 2015 along with a host of other equipment at an estimated cost of $952 million.
A contract for two AH-1Zs to be supplied to Pakistan at a cost of $58 million was announced last August, and the nine more helicopters will cost $170 million, according to a US department of defense announcement.
The AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine combat helicopter based on the earlier SuperCobra developed for the US Marine Corps. It has a top speed of 420 km an hour and a range of 610 km.
The new contract will irk India, coming close on the heels of the Obama administration attempting to push through the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan despite its opposition .
Even US lawmakers are against the F-16 sale, and they blocked congressional approval for its funding — $700 million – citing Pakistan’s dodgy counter-terrorism efforts.
India had protested the sale of AH-1Z Vipers after it was first announced last April. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told Lok Sabha in a written reply in July, “Government has sensitised the US of our concerns on US military sales to Pakistan. Government has consistently conveyed to the US that it must take into account India-US relations and the impact on India’s security in deciding its military assistance to Pakistan.”
The US department of defense had then said in support of the sale that these helicopters will enhance Pakistan’s “ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day and night environments”.