Adapted from the Army's single-engine AH-1, the SeaCobra became the Marine Corps' primary light attack helicopter after it was introduced to service in 1970. By 1978 the AH-1 had been modified to carry the Hughes BGM-71A TOW anti-armor missile, and reshafted with more powerful engines. Marine Corps AH-1 SeaCobras flew their first combat missions in Vietnam and advanced versions serve on the front lines today.
A derivative of the UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, the AH-1 was initially developed for the Army as a single engine attack helicopter. The Marine Corps recognized the aircraft's potential, but sought a twin-engine design for safety, especially in the maritime environment. In 1968, Bell responded to the Marine Corps requirement by modifying the AH-1G airframe with two T400-CP-400 turboshafts linked to a combining gearbox driving a single shaft.
Marine Observation Squadron (VMO) 1 received the first of these twin-engine AH-1Js in September 1970. The new aircraft, in addition to its improved power plant, also incorporated a new 20mm M-197, 3-barrel cannon in a rotable nose turret. Other variants substituted a 7.62 minigun and grenade launcher in the nose. The stub wings were improved to accommodate rockets. In Vietnam, the aircraft equipped Marine Helicopter Attack Squadron (HMA) 369, flying coastal hunter-killer missions. In 1976, the AH-1J was further modified with a uprated main rotor, a larger, repositioned tail rotor and provision for carrying the Hughes BGM-71A TOW anti-armor missile. The addition of the TOW missile degraded performance, and in 1980, Bell replaced the power plant with two T700-GE-401 engines. Re-designated the AH-1W, the SuperCobra also included provision for carriage of the Hellfire anti-armor missile, AIM-9L air-to-air missiles, and avionics and system improvements.
The AH-1T and AH-1W saw action in the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan. The SuperCobra proved highly effective during the brief ground phase of operation Desert Storm; 97 enemy tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers, and numerous light vehicles felt their sting. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and the current combat operations in Afghanistan, the attack helicopter has proven the close support weapon of choice.
The current Marine Corps version, the AH-1W, soon will be replaced by the much improved AH-1Z, with a four-blade rotor system, more powerful engines and improved avionics.
|Manufacturer:||Bell Helicopter Textron|
|Type:||Close support attack helicopter|
|Crew:||Pilot and co-pilot/gunner|
|Powerplant:||One 1,800 horsepower Pratt & Whitney T400-CP-400 (PT6T-3 Twin-Pac) turboshaft|
|Dimensions:||Length: 53 ft., 4 in.|
Rotor Diameter: 44 ft.
Height: 13 ft., 8 in.
Stub span: 10 ft., 9 in.
|Weight:||Empty: 6,518 lb.|
Gross: 9,637 lb.
|Performance:||Max Speed: 207 mph|
Cruise Speed: 120 mph
Hover Ceiling: 12,450 ft.
Range: 358 miles
|Armament:||GE turret w/ M197 20mm, 3-barrel cannon; BGM-71A TOW missiles; 5-in. Zuni rockets; 2.75-in. rockets; AIM-9M Sidewinders|