|A Bell AH-1G HueyCobra in flight|
|First flight||7 September 1965|
|Primary users||United States Army (historical)|
Japan Self Defense Forces
Republic of Korea Army
Israeli Air Force
US$11.3 million (1995) (AH-1 HueyCobra)
|Developed from||Bell UH-1 Iroquois|
|Variants||Bell AH-1 SeaCobra/SuperCobra |
Bell 309 KingCobra
The Bell AH-1 Cobra (company designation: Model 209) is a two-blade, single engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It was developed using the engine, transmission and rotor system of the Bell's UH-1 Iroquois. The AH-1 is also referred to as the HueyCobra or Snake.
The AH-1 was the backbone of the United States Army's attack helicopter fleet, but has been replaced by the AH-64 Apache in Army service. Upgraded versions continue to fly with the militaries of several other nations. The AH-1 twin engine versions remain in service with United States Marine Corps (USMC) as the service's primary attack helicopter. Surplus AH-1 helicopters have been converted for fighting forest fires. The United States Forest Service refers to their program as the Firewatch Cobra. Garlick Helicopters also converts surplus AH-1s for forest firefighting under the name, FireSnake.
Closely related with the development of the Bell AH-1 is the story of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois—predecessor of the modern helicopter, icon of the Vietnam War and one of the most numerous helicopter types built. The UH-1 made the theory of air cavalry practical, as the new tactics called for US forces to be highly mobile across a wide area. Unlike before, they would not stand and fight long battles, and they would not stay and hold positions. Instead, the plan was that the troops carried by fleets of UH-1 "Hueys" would range across the country, to fight the enemy at times and places of their own choice.
It soon became clear that the unarmed troop helicopters were vulnerable against ground fire from Việt Cộng and North Vietnamese troops, particularly as they came down to drop their troops in a landing zone. Without friendly support from artillery or ground forces, the only way to pacify a landing zone was from the air, preferably with an aircraft that could closely escort the transport helicopters, and loiter over the landing zone as the battle progressed. By 1962 a small number of armed UH-1As were used as escorts, armed with multiple machine guns and rocket mounts.
The massive expansion of American military presence in Vietnam opened a new era of war from the air. The linchpin of US Army tactics were the helicopters, and the protection of those helicopters became a vital role.
Iroquois Warrior, Sioux Scout and AAFSS
Bell had been investigating helicopter gunships since the late 1950s, and had created a mockup of its D-255 helicopter gunship concept, named "Iroquois Warrior". In June 1962, Bell displayed the mockup to Army officials, hoping to solicit funding for further development. The Iroquois Warrior was planned to be a purpose-built attack aircraft based on the UH-1B components with a new, slender airframe and a two-seat, tandem cockpit. It featured a grenade launcher in a ball turret on the nose, a 20 mm belly-mounted gun pod, and stub wings for mounting rockets or SS.10 anti-tank missiles.
The Army was interested and awarded Bell a proof of concept contract in December 1962. Bell modified a Model 47 into the sleek Model 207 Sioux Scout which first flew in July 1963. The Sioux Scout had all the key features of a modern attack helicopter: a tandem cockpit, stub wings for weapons, and a chin-mounted gun turret. After evaluating the Sioux Scout in early 1964, the Army was impressed, but also felt the Sioux Scout was undersized, underpowered, and generally not suited for practical use.
Army's solution to the shortcomings of the Sioux Scout was to launch the Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) competition. The AAFSS requirement gave birth to the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne, a heavy attack helicopter with high speed capability. It proved to be too sophisticated, and was canceled after 10 years of development in 1972. The Army sought greater survivability in a conventional attack helicopter.
At the same time, despite the Army's preference for the AAFSS–for which Bell Helicopter was not selected to compete–Bell stuck with their own idea of a smaller and lighter gunship. In January 1965 Bell invested $1 million to proceed with a new design. Mating the proven transmission, the "540" rotor system of the UH-1C augmented by a Stability Control Augmentation System (SCAS), and the T53 turboshaft engine of the UH-1 with the design philosophy of the Sioux Scout, Bell produced the Model 209. Bell's Model 209 largely resembled the "Iroquois Warrior" mockup.
In Vietnam, events were also advancing in favor of the Model 209. Attacks on US forces were increasing, and by the end of June 1965 there were already 50,000 US ground troops in Vietnam. 1965 was also the deadline for AAFSS selection, but the program would become stuck in technical difficulties and political bickering. The U.S. Army needed an interim gunship for Vietnam and it asked five companies to provide a quick solution. Submissions came in for armed variants of the Boeing-Vertol ACH-47A, Kaman HH-2C Tomahawk, Piasecki 16H Pathfinder, Sikorsky S-61, and the Bell 209.
On 3 September 1965 Bell rolled out its Model 209 prototype, and four days later it made its maiden flight, only eight months after the go-ahead. In April 1966, the model won an evaluation against the other rival helicopters. Then the Army signed the first production contract for 110 aircraft. Bell added Cobra to the UH-1's Huey nickname to produce its HueyCobra name for the 209. The Army applied the Cobra name to its AH-1G designation for the helicopter.
The Bell 209 demonstrator was used for the next six years to test weapons and fit of equipment. It had been modified to the match AH-1 production standard by the early 1970s. The demonstrator was retired to the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky and converted to approximately its original appearance.
The Bell 209 design was modified for production. The retractable skids were replaced by simpler fixed skids. A new wide-blade rotor was featured. For production, a plexiglass canopy replaced the 209's armored glass canopy which was heavy enough to harm performance. Other changes were incorporated after entering service. The main one of these was moving the tail rotor from the helicopter's left side to the right for improved effectiveness of the rotor.
The U.S. Marine Corps was interested in the Cobra and ordered an improved twin-engined version in 1968 under the designation AH-1J. This would lead to more twin-engine variants. In 1972, the Army sought improved anti-armor capability. Under the Improved Cobra Armament Program (ICAP), trials of eight AH-1s fitted with TOW missiles were conducted in October 1973. After passing qualification tests the following year, Bell was contracted with upgrading 101 AH-1Gs to the TOW-capable AH-1Q configuration. Following AH-1Q operational tests, a more powerful T53 engine and transmission were added from 1976 resulting in the AH-1S version. The AH-1S was upgraded in three steps, culminating with the AH-1F.
By June 1967, the first AH-1G HueyCobras had been delivered. Originally designated as UH-1H, the "A" for attack designation was soon adopted and when the improved UH-1D became the UH-1H, the HueyCobra became the AH-1G. The AH-1 was initially considered a variant of the H-1 line, resulting in the G series letter.
AH-1 Cobras were in use by the Army during the Tet offensive in 1968 and through the end of the Vietnam War. Huey Cobras provided fire support for ground forces, escorted transport helicopters and other roles, including aerial rocket artillery (ARA) battalions in the two Airmobile divisions. They also formed "hunter killer" teams by pairing with OH-6A scout helicopters. A team featured one OH-6 flying slow and low to find enemy forces. If the OH-6 drew fire, the Cobra could strike at the then revealed enemy. Bell built 1,116 AH-1Gs for the U.S. Army between 1967 and 1973, and the Cobras chalked up over a million operational hours in Vietnam. Out of nearly 1,110 AH-1s delivered from 1967 to 1973 approximately 300 were lost to combat and accidents during the war. The U.S. Marine Corps used AH-1G Cobras in Vietnam for a short time before acquiring twin-engine AH-1J Cobras.
AH-1 Cobras were deployed for Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada in 1983, flying close-support and helicopter escort missions. Army Cobras participated in Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.
During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Gulf War (1990–91), the Cobras and SuperCobras deployed in a support role. The USMC deployed 91 AH-1W SuperCobras and the US Army 140 AH-1 Cobras; these were operated from forward, dispersed desert bases. Three AH-1s were lost in accidents during fighting and afterward. Cobras destroyed many Iraqi armored vehicles and various targets in the fighting.
Army Cobras provided support for the US humanitarian intervention during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993. They were also employed during the US invasion of Haiti in 1994. US Cobras were also used in operations later in the 1990s.
The US Army phased out the AH-1 during the 1990s and retired the AH-1 from active service in March 1999, offering them to NATO allies. The Army retired the AH-1 from reserves in September 2001. The retired AH-1s have been passed to other nations and to the USDA Forest Service. The AH-1 continues to be in service with the US military, by the US Marine Corps, which operate the twin-engine AH-1W SuperCobra and AH-1Z Viper.
The Israeli Air Force named its Cobras as the "Tzefa" (Hebrew: צפע, for Viper). Since the mid-1970s Lebanon has been Israel's most active front; IAF Cobras have been fighting there for more than 20 years.
Cobra helicopters were also used widely by the Israeli Air Force in the 1982 Lebanon War to destroy Syrian armor and fortification. IAF Cobras destroyed dozens of Syrian armored fighting vehicles, including many modern Soviet T-72 tanks. As part of their service in southern Lebanon the Cobras were active in Israel's major operations against Hezbollah in operations "Accountability" and "Grapes of Wrath".
Japan manufactured 89 AH-1S Cobras which were licensed by Fuji Heavy Industries from 1984 to 2000. The type is used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and are Step 3 models, which are roughly the equivalent to the United States Army's AH-1Fs. The engine is the T53-K-703 turboshaft, which Kawasaki Heavy Industries produced under license.
Pakistan was supplied with 20 AH-1S gunships by the U.S. between 1984 and 1986, these were later upgraded with the C-NITE thermal imaging package. AH-1s were used as Pakistan's main gunship helicopters against insurgents during the Balochistan conflict. The ongoing War in North-West Pakistan has seen Pakistani AH-1s in action against Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters as well as their tribal allies. Pakistani AH-1s have also been used in operations against tribal uprisings in the Balochistan province, supporting the Pakistan Army against well armed Baloch separatist-militants. The U.S. delivered 12 AH-1Fs to Pakistan in 2007, with 14 more AH-1F Cobras supplied in 2010.
Pakistan has 35 AH-1F helicopters in use. Maintaining these aircraft has been difficult, but possible through commercial channels. Additionally, the U.S. Government has given $750,000 to update a portion of Pakistan Army Aviation's existing AH-1F/S Cobra fleet. Turkey has also supplied spare parts of Cobra helicopters to Pakistan free of cost. Pakistan has repeatedly sought Bell AH-1 SuperCobra attack helicopters from the U.S. to supplement and replace its current AH-1 Cobras. The U.S. has assured Pakistan that it would receive the latest AH-1Z variant in phases by 2015. Pakistan has lost 3 aircraft in recent years ,
U.S. Forest Service
In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service acquired 25 retired AH-1Fs from the U.S. Army. These have been designated Bell 209 and are being converted into Firewatch Cobras with infrared and low light sensors and systems for real time fire monitoring. The Florida Division of Forestry has also acquired 3 AH-1Ps from the U.S. Army. These are called Bell 209 "Firesnakes" and are equipped to carry a water/fire retardant system.
- Bell 209
- Original AH-1G prototype with retractable skid landing gear. This model number is also used by the FAA for the civilian registration of former U.S. Army AH-1s used in firefighting service.
- AH-1G HueyCobra
- Initial 1966 production model gunship for the US Army, with one 1,400 shp (1,000 kW) Avco Lycoming T53-13 turboshaft.
- JAH-1G HueyCobra
- One helicopter for armament testing including Hellfire missiles and multi-barrel cannon.
- TH-1G HueyCobra
- Two-seat dual-control trainer.
- Z.14 HueyCobra
- The Spanish Navy purchased eight new-build AH-1Gs, designating the type the "Z-14". These were equipped with the M35 20 mm cannon system, and were used to support coastal patrol boats. Four of these were lost in accidents. The remaining helicopters were retired in 1985 with three sent back to the US, and one kept in storage in Spain.
- Eight AH-1Gs with XM26 Telescopic Sight Unit (TSU) and two M56 TOW 4-pack launchers.
- AH-1Q HueyCobra
- Equipped with the M65 TOW/Cobra missile subsystem, M65 Telescopic Sight Unit (TSU), and M73 Reflex sight. All future versions will be equipped with the TSU and be equipped to fire the TOW missile subsystem.
- AH-1G powered by a T53-L-703 engine without TOW system.
- AH-1Q upgrade and TOW system.
- The baseline AH-1S is an AH-1Q upgraded with a 1,800 shp (1,300 kW) T53-L-703 turboshaft engine. The AH-1S is also referred to as the "Improved AH-1S", "AH-1S Modified", or "AH-1S(MOD)" prior to 1988. (Prior to 1988, all upgraded aircraft were referred to as variants of the AH-1S.)
- A target drone conversion of the AH-1S by Bell-Bristol Aerospace under a joint US and Canadian development program started in 1994. Honeywell further modified the QAH-1S into the Hokum-X by installing systems and hardware to allow it to simulate the Russian Kamov Ka-50 attack helicopter. Three Hokum-Xs were completed from 1998-2001.
- 100 production aircraft with composite rotors, flat plate glass cockpit, and improved cockpit layout for nap-of-earth (NOE) flight. The AH-1P is also referred to as the "Production AH-1S", or "AH-1S(PROD)" prior to 1988. These improvements are considered Step 1 of the AH-1S upgrade program.
- 98 production aircraft with the Enhanced Cobra Armament System (ECAS) featuring the M97A1 armament subsystem with a three-barreled M197 20 mm cannon. The AH-1E is also referred to as the "Upgunned AH-1S", or "AH-1S(ECAS)" prior to 1988. These improvements are considered Step 2 of the AH-1S upgrade program. AH-1E aircraft included the M147 Rocket Management Subsystem (RMS) to fire 2.75-inch (70 mm) rockets.
- 143 production aircraft and 387 converted AH-1G Cobras. The AH-1F incorporates all Step 1 and 2 upgrades to the AH-1S. It also featured Step 3 upgrades: a head-up display, a laser rangefinder, an infrared jammer mounted above the engine exhaust, and an infrared suppressing engine exhaust system, and the M143 Air Data Subsystem (ADS). The AH-1F is also referred to as the "Modernized AH-1S", "AH-1S Modernized Cobra", or "AH-1S(MC)" prior to 1988.
- Model 249
- Experimental demonstrator version fitted with a four-bladed rotor system, an uprated engine and experimental equipment, including Hellfire missiles.
- Bell 309 KingCobra
- Experimental all-weather version based on the AH-1G single-engine and AH-1J twin-engine designs. Two Bell 309s were produced; the first was powered by a PW&C T400-CP-400 Twin-Pac engine set and the second was powered by a Lycoming T-55-L-7C engine.
For operators of AH-1J, AH-1T, AH-1W, and other AH-1 twin-engine variants, see AH-1 SuperCobra
A small number of former military helicopters are operated by civil organisations for display and demonstration, for example by Red Bull
Aircraft on display
- The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center in West Chester, Pennsylvania has an AH-1G sn 68-15138 on display.
- Veterans Park in Kremmling, Colorado has an AH-1F on display.
- The Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona has an AH-1S Cobra on display.
- Don F. Pratt Museum in Fort Campbell, Kentucky has an AH-1G displayed outside. Also, an AH-1S displayed at the of the barracks.
- The Ohio Veterans' Memorial Park in Clinton, Ohio has an AH-1F Cobra displayed on a pedestal outsude.
- Crew: 2: one pilot, one co-pilot/gunner (CPG)
- Length: 53 ft (16.2 m) (with both rotors turning)
- Rotor diameter: 44 ft (13.4 m)
- Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.12 m)
- Empty weight: 5,810 lb (2,630 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 9,500 lb (4,310 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft, 1,100 shp (820 kW)
- Rotor system: 2 blades on main rotor, 2 blades on tail rotor
- Fuselage length: 44 ft 5 in (13.5 m)
- Stub wing span: 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m)
- Never exceed speed: 190 knots (219 mph, 352 km/h)
- Maximum speed: 149 knots (171 mph, 277 km/h)
- Range: 310 nmi (357 mi, 574 km)
- Service ceiling: 11,400 ft (3,475 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,230 ft/min (6.25 m/s)
AH-1F "Modernized" Cobra
- Crew: 2: one pilot, one co-pilot/gunner (CPG)
- Length: 53 ft (16.1 m) (with both rotors turning)
- Rotor diameter: 44 ft (13.6 m)
- Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.12 m)
- Empty weight: 6,600 lb (2,993 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 10,000 lb (4,500 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming T53-L-703 turboshaft, 1,800 shp (1,300 kW)
- Rotor system: 2 blades on main rotor, 2 blades on tail rotor
- Fuselage length: 44 ft 7 in (13.6 m)
- Stub wing span: 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m)
- Never exceed speed: 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h)
- Maximum speed: 149 knots (172 mph, 277 km/h)
- Range: 274 nmi (315 mi, 510 km)
- Service ceiling: 12,200 ft (3,720 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,620 ft/min (8.2 m/s)
- U.S. Helicopter Armament Subsystems, AH-1 Cobra
- Bell 207 Sioux Scout
- Bell UH-1 Iroquois
- Bell AH-1 SuperCobra
- Bell AH-1Z Viper
- Bell 309 KingCobra
- Bell YAH-63
- Agusta A129 Mangusta
- Eurocopter Tiger
- List of attack aircraft
- List of helicopters
- List of active United States military aircraft
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to AH-1 Cobra.|
- AH-1 Cobra page on GlobalSecurity.org
- The Bell AH-1 HueyCobra on Vectorsite.net
- AH-1 HueyCobra page on Rotorhead.org
- AH-1 Cobra Photo Galleries on MidwaySailor.com
- Cobras over the Frontier, by Usman Ansari.
- End of an era for Fort Drum's Cobras.
- Aircraft Training Manual, Attack Helicopter, AH-1 (TC 1-213), 1992
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