July 12, 2014:
Pakistan wants more helicopter gunships, in particular it wants some new helicopters rather than used stuff to supplement, and replace the 35 AH-1S and AH-1F gunships it already has. Three of these have been lost in the last few years in the tribal territories where helicopter gunships are badly needed, heavily used and frequently shot at.
For years Pakistan tried to obtain the 6.6 ton AH-1W model from the United States. This would have been a major upgrade for the Pakistani helicopter gunship force. Developed by the U.S. Marine Corps the W model was configured for naval use, and has two engines and protection against sea water corrosion. Like the AH-1F model used by Pakistan, the AH-1W has a crew of two and is armed with a 20mm, 3 barrel, autocannon (with 750 rounds) and can carry eight TOW missiles or 38 70mm unguided rockets. Typical sorties last about three hours (twice that of the AH-1F). The Pakistanis are also equipping their gunships with night vision (thermal imaging) equipment.
The U.S. refused to supply Pakistan with the W model or any other modern versions. This included the more recent AH-1Z. The major user of the AH-1W, the U.S. Marine Corps, has remanufactured its 180 AH-1T/W attack helicopters into AH-1Z Viper models. This upgrade includes a new 4 bladed composite rotor system, transmission, strengthened structural components, and modern digital cockpit avionics. The first ones entered service in 2011.
The U.S. has turned down Pakistani requests for any of these AH-1 models in an effort to persuade Pakistan to be more cooperative in dealing with Islamic terrorism. The Pakistanis repeatedly refuse and have pretty much given up on getting more AH-1s from the United States. Meanwhile Pakistan is seeking other helicopter gunships from China (WZ-10), Turkey (T-129) and Russia (Mi-35) as well as heavily armed commercial helicopters equipped with electronics similar to those used on gunships. None of these other options has worked out, not yet anyway. Part of the problem is that Pakistan has little cash to spend on new or used helicopter gunships and is hoping for a gift, or big discount from someone. There’s not a lot of that around for Pakistan, which provides sanctuary to Islamic terrorists who are hostile to all the nations that could provide new helicopters.