AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters Spotted in Amarillo, Texas, With Blacked Out Pakistan Markings

One of the AH-1Z Viper helicopters that made a stop in Amarillo on Jul. 19, 2019. Note the partly covered Pakistan Army markings. (All images: Rodney Bastow)

The helicopters were ready for delivery when the U.S. embargoed sale and transfer to Pakistan.

Two AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters were spotted at Amarillo, Texas, last week. The choppers, serialled 786-064 and 786-066, made a stop at the base where our reader and friend Rodney Bastow photographed them on Jul. 19, 2019.  What’s really interesting is the fact that the original “Pakistan Army” markings on the helicopters were partly covered with the word “Pakistan” blacked out.

The Vipers belong to the first batch of AH-1Z helicopters destined to Pakistan Army and were probably on their way from NAS Patuxent River (where they were reportedly stored) to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group (AMARG), in Tucson, Arizona, to join the nine helicopters already stored there (examples 786-061, 062, 063, 067, 068, 069, 070, 071, and 072, according to Scramble).

AH-1Z Viper 786-064. (All images: Rodney Bastow)

All the Pakistan Army helicopters will be cocooned, using “spraylat” (a white, opaque, high-tech vinyl plastic compound sprayed) that will protect the airframes and keep the interior temperatures within 15° C: U.S. State Department had approved the sale of 15 AH-1Z Viper to the Pakistan Army along with 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire II laser-guided air-to-surface missiles in April 2015. The first out of 12 ordered helicopters carried out flight testing from Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center, Texas, in December 2017.

The Pakistan Army planned to use the AH-1Z to replace its AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopters, extensively used in CAS (Close Air Support) role as part of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign in its northwest regions. The AH-1Z is heavier and better equipped than the AH-1F/S: it carries Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight System electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) pods, Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display (HMD), BAE AN/ALE-47 chaff/flare countermeasure dispensers, Northrop AN/APR-39C(v2) radar warning receivers (RWR) and Orbital ATK AN/AAR-47 missile warning receivers.

A close up view of the AH-1Z originally destined to the Pakistan Army.

In August 2017, the U.S. announced the first freeze of military aid to Pakistan. At the time, Bell had just transferred the first two Vipers to the U.S. government for delivery to Pakistan via the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) program and additional helicopters were already on the production line. In June 2018, the sale and transfer of AH-1Z helicopters were embargoed. All the 12 AH-1Z will remain at the “boneyard” in Tucson until a decision on their fate is taken.

The AH-1Z serial 786-066.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.