US Transfers 8 More Attack Helicopters to Pakistan
Pakistan now has 8 more AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to carry its fight to the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants operating with virtual impunity on its rugged Western borders – if it so chooses. There have been rumors of an offensive due in Waziristan, following a long series of suicide bombings, assassinations/attempts, and other attacks within Pakistan. The last such offensive in spring 2006 resulted in over 2,000 military casualties, and ended with the government pledging non-interference and freeing 2,500 Taliban and al-Qaeda cadre as part of the “peace” accord.
The AH-1F modernized US Army version of the 40-year-old Bell Helicopter design features a fire-control system with a laser rangefinder; a head-up display (HUD) for the pilot; an AN/ALQ-144 IRCM (“disco ball” infra-red counter-measure) unit mounted above the engine; a cable cutter above and below the cockpit to protect the Cobra in NOE (nap-of-the-earth) flight; and a long exhaust pipe to reduce the helicopter’s infrared signature. The U.S. State Department says the completely refurbished attack helicopters will provide the Pakistan Army with a superior capability to conduct night operations with a “modern attack helicopter” capable of delivering a variety of weapons. See VoA report.
The AH-1F night-capable Cobras (C-NITE Equipped) were transferred to the Pakistan Army February 2 at the Qasim Airbase near Islamabad. They are part of a $50 million U.S. foreign military sales program to combat the growing influence of the al-Qaeda/Taliban insurgency in eastern Afghanistan. The British chief of staff for southern Afghanistan has said that Quetta, Pakistan is the headquarters for that movement.
Sept 29/08: Looks like some maintenance is scheduled, via a DSCA contract request.
June 24/08: The US GAO audits Coalition Support Funding to Pakistan, and notes that many Pakistani Mi-17s and AH-1s remain grounded because maintenance is not done, despite funding of over $55 million to handle that. Read “US GAO Criticizes CSF Aid to Pakistan“.