Czech aircrew completes Marine-led training ahead of H1 aircraft delivery

Members of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron (HMLAT) 303 and the H-1 Light/Attack helicopters program office (PMA-276), recognized a group of airmen from the Czech Republic Air Force during a ceremony on Feb. 9 for completing maintenance and flight training on the H-1 family of the aircraft.

The students have been embedded with the HMLAT-303 since July 2022, taking the same courses and hands-on training utilized by the U.S. Marine Corps’ military occupational specialties (MOS) for the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom. The syllabus is designed to provide the initial knowledge, skills, and experience required to maintain, operate, and fly the H-1 platform.

“The training we did with the Czechs provided the foundational knowledge to fly and maintain these machines [AH-1Z and UH-1Y],” said Lt. Col. Mark Koval, Commanding Officer, HMLAT-303. “They now have the basic skills to transition to tactical training with their own fleet of helicopters.”

In 2019, the Czech Republic selected the H-1, specifically four AH-1Z and eight UH-1Y aircraft, to modernize the country’s armed forces and strengthen its homeland defense. As part of the foreign military sales contract, the customer had the opportunity to send its first wave of H-1 aircrew and maintainers through the HMLAT-303 training pipeline, preparing them for aircraft deliveries throughout 2023.

The training syllabus included familiarization, navigation, ordnance, formation, night vision goggle, terrain and instrument training. In addition, maintenance students completed training with the Center for Naval Aviation Technician Training Detachment Camp Pendleton, Ca.

“This training is part of our larger efforts to ensure the Czech Republic Air Force has all of the tools and resources required to fly its new aircraft for decades to come,” said Col. Vasilios Pappas, PMA-276 program manager.

Once back in country, the H-1 crew will continue training, working with representatives from the H-1 original equipment manufacturer, Bell, and their supplier, Pinnacle Solutions. Based on a “train-the-trainer” model, pilots, crew chiefs and maintainers will learn the final skills required to operate and sustain its fleet of AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters, and train other members of its force.

The Czech Air Force squadron is expected to be independently operating in late-2024.

“We are committed to the success of our customer in their deployment of the H-1 platform and grateful to HMLAT-303 for their role in that success story,” said Pappas.

PMA-276 manages the end-to-end procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the Marine Corps rotary wing close air support, anti-armor, armed escort, armed/visual reconnaissance and fire support program systems.

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