Bell Helicopter to supply 12 AH-1Z attack helicopters and electronic warfare (EW) avionics to Bahrain

Feb. 8, 2019
PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md. – Military helicopter designers at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas, will build 12 new AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and avionics for the government of Bahrain under terms of a $240.3 million foreign military sales order announced Thursday.
PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md. – Military helicopter designers at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas, will build 12 new AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and avionics for the government of Bahrain under terms of a $240.3 million foreign military sales order announced Thursday.

Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command are asking Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, to manufacture and deliver 12 lot 16 production AH-1Z aircraft for Bahrain.

The AH-1Z is a twin-engine attack helicopter based on the Bell AH-1W SuperCobra that features a four-blade rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target-sighting system. It has upgraded avionics, weapons, and electro-optical sensors designed to find targets at long ranges and attack them with precision weapons.

Bell designed the attack helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps. Just two weeks ago the U.S. Navy awarded a $439.6 million order to Bell for 25 Lot 16 production AH-1Z aircraft.

The AH-1Z helicopter can carry a payload of 5,764 pounds, fly as fast as 222 knots at altitudes to 20,000 feet, and has a range of 370 nautical miles. The AH-1Z has a crew of two, carries a 20-millimeter Gatling gun, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles.

Related: Boeing to rebuild and upgrade United Kingdom AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to latest versions

The combat helicopter also can fire 70-millimeter Hydra rockets, as well as its smart munitions brethren, the BAE Systems WGU-59/B Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) II.

The attack helicopter avionics has integrated night vision goggle (NVG)-compatible glass cockpit, advanced electronic warfare (EW) self protection (EWSP) suite, and ballistically hardened components to protect the aircraft from a broad range of enemy weapons.

It has high-resolution forward-looking infrared resolution that provides long-range detection, identification, and engagement capabilities.

The Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems segment in Woodland Hills, Calif., has developed the integrated avionics systems for the AH-1Z. company's Gen III FlightPro mission computers are the heart of the AH-1Z's integrated avionics system (IAS) that powers the helicopter's glass cockpit avionics.

The Gen III mission computer incorporates a ruggedized 6U VME PowerPC-based single board computer. Interfaces include Fast Ethernet, four serial ports, parallel I/O, and built-in-test. FlightPro has a standard partitioned real-time operating system called INTEGRITY-178 tuMP for multicore architectures from Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara, Calif., with ARINC 653 and POSIX support.

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The mission computer's standard configuration also includes a quad channel 1553 mezzanine card, high-speed serial card, digital I/O module with eight channels of opto-coupled discrete inputs, eight channels of opto-coupled discrete outputs, and 16 channels of general-purpose bi-directional discretes that can be programmed individually as outputs or inputs.

The FlightPro mission computer is capable of Required Navigation Performance/Area Navigation (RNP/RNAV) in all flight regimes, including departure, en route, terminal, and non-precision approach using GPS as the sole navigation source.

The flight computers use 28-volt DC or 115-volt AC three-phase 400 Hz input power, measure 13.61 by 11.5 by 7.55 inches, and weigh 30.4 pounds. The computers have rated 3,200 hours mean time between failures.

The flight computer software is RTCA DO-178C compliant, has ARINC-653 partitioning for safety and security, and complies with the Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) standard. The software is aligned with the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) technical standard, has hardware-independent application software developed to MIL-STD-498, under MIL-STD-882C safety program environmental qualification.

Flight computer hardware is designed to MIL-STD-461D for electro-magnetic compatibility, and is tested to MIL-STD-462 and MIL-STD 810E. FlightPro is conduction cooled, and represents “Quiet Cockpit Technology,” Northrop Grumman officials say.

Related: Two AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and avionics ordered for the Marine Corps in $38.3 million deal

The AH-1Z also has an automatic flight control system with four-axis stability control augmentation system. Each crew station has two 8-by-6-inch multifunction displays and one 4.2-by-4.2-inch dual-function display, based on active-matrix liquid-crystal color technology.

The displays come from the L-3 Technologies Ruggedized Command and Control Solutions segment in San Diego. GE Aviation Systems in Grand Rapids, Mich., provides the weapon stores control and data transfer system.

Thales Avionics in Arlington, Va., provides the AH-1Z TopOwl helmet-mounted display system. It has integrated image intensifier and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) capability and provides transition from day to night use at the push of a button.

Additionally, the IAS and mission computers can accommodate future system upgrades; rapid insertion of new technologies; and integration of other avionics, communications, and survivability equipment. Northrop Grumman also provides the operational flight program software that controls the IAS.

On this order Bell will do the work in Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and should be finished by August 2022. For more information contact Bell Helicopter online at, or Naval Air Systems Command at

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About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

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