The US has announced it will supply nine AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters worth more than $170 million to Pakistan, weeks after the sale of eight F-16 combat jets despite stiff opposition to the deal from India and American lawmakers.
The US defence department on Monday announced the award of a contract to Bell Helicopter for the nine helicopters to be supplied under the Foreign Military Sales programme. The delivery of the helicopters is expected to be completed by September 2018.
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.
Earlier this year, the US approved a $700-million deal for selling eight F-16 jets to Pakistan to enhance the country’s capability to carry out precision strikes against militants.
The deal was cleared despite strong objections from the Indian government, which questioned whether the F-16s would be used for counter-terror operations, and American lawmakers, who expressed doubts about Pakistan’s role in the war on terror against the backdrop of links between militant groups and the security establishment.
In April last year, the US state department had approved the sale of AH-1Z Viper helicopters, engines Hellfire II missiles and associated equipment worth a total of $952 million to Pakistan.
“This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency had said at the time.