PRAGUE (Reuters) - The United States will give the Czech Republic eight Bell military helicopters for free, the U.S. embassy in Prague said, in what the Czech defence minister said was recognition of the NATO country's aid to Ukraine.
The Czechs are looking at speeding up the modernisation of their army away from Soviet-era equipment including their helicopter fleet, and have donated excess hardware to Ukraine.
"It is being shown that our clear and unwavering stance since the start of Russian invasion to Ukraine is paying off," Friday's daily Hospodarske Noviny quoted Defence Minister Jana Cernochova as saying.
"Not only we gained respect of our allies due to our efforts in helping Ukraine, but we also received their support in modernising our army."
The helicopters come on top of 12 previously ordered and will be for free, except for costs of transfer and upgrades, the U.S. embassy said on Twitter late on Thursday.
"We confirm with pleasure the transfer of 6 AH-1Z a 2 UH-1Y under the Excess Defense Articles programme," the embassy said.
The transfer means the Czech Republic will have 10 AH-1Z Viper attack and 10 UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. The previously ordered aircraft are due to arrive in 2023.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Mark Potter)