Bell AH-1G Cobra
Country of origin
Dimensions and weight
Length (rotors turning)
Main rotor diameter
Weight (maximum take off)
Engines and performance
1 x Lycoming T-53-L-11 turboshaft
1 100 shp
1-2 x 40 mm grenade launchers, or 2 x 7.62 mm miniguns
8 x TOW anti-tank missiles
pods with 70 mm unguided rockets, cluster munitions, napalm
In 1965 Bell flew the prototype of the world's first
dedicated attack helicopter. This machine was specially designed as
an escort for troop carrying helicopters to meet a US Army
requirement. The whole development was completed in very short
terms. Eventually this machine was a turning point in
the development of helicopter technology and its application. This armored gunship was a step forward from the previous transport
helicopters, that carried only defensive weapons. It opened a new
era in warfare.
Based on the
Bell Model 204
helicopter, the Model 209 introduced a new slim fuselage with a
fighter-type cockpit. The pilot sits high in the rear with a
co-pilot/gunner lower in the front directing the fire of a wide
range of weapons mounted on lateral stub wings or under the nose.
The US Army liked this machine and the first order was placed in
1966. The new helicopter was designated as the AH-1G. Production commenced during the same year. The Cobra first saw
service in 1968. Over 1 000 AH-1Gs
were delivered in the first four years. This helicopter is often
called the Huey Cobra. It saw extensive service
in Vietnam. Furthermore it was one of the most valuable US weapons
during that war.
the AH-1 is based on the UH-1 Iroquis, little in the appearance of
the Cobra shows off its roots. Engine and transmission were
borrowed from UH-1. The original version of the Cobra was powered by
a single Lycoming T-53-L-11 turboshaft engine, developing 1 100 shp.
This helicopter has a narrow fuselage and was specially designed to
be as small target as possible to enemy ground fire. Due to
the streamline shape and lighter weight, the original version had a
top speed of nearly double that of the transport helicopters that it
escorted. Also this gunship was extremely maneuverable. This
helicopter had simple but tough landing skids, rather than complex
nose there was a turret, that could mount miniguns, cannons, or
grenade launchers. The turret could pivot to both sides of the
helicopter, as well as up and down. The turret was controlled by the
gunner, seated at the front. Also the pilot in the rear could fire
the turret, if it was locked in the forward position. Early Vietnam
models were armed with single or twin 40 mm automatic grenade
launchers, or twin 7.62 mm miniguns. On second-generation models it
was replaced by a harder-hitting 3-barrel rotary cannon.
could carry 998-1 360 kg of weapons on its stub wings. Early
production helicopters were fitted with up to four pods with 70 mm
unguided rockets. These were effective against unarmored targets and
light vehicles. The helicopter could also carry
anti-tank guided missiles, as well as other weapons. During the
Vietnam War, the AH-1 took over the role of assault helicopter and
tank killer from the UH-1D. It was flying anti-armor mission and was
often used to ambush enemy columns.
sits in the rear seat, which is slightly elevated above the front
seat of the co-pilot/gunner. The front seat also has a full set of
flight controls. The cockpit is surrounded by a light armor protection.
the ground contact the pilots via radio and coordinate the enemy
in the mid and late 1960s the US Army planned to obtain a proposed
Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter. So only a relatively small
number of the Huey Cobras was obtained. But when the Cheyenne
program was cancelled Bell started work on improved models of the
Cobra. Improved models were fitted with two engines. The US Army
eventually retired its AH-1 helicopters in favor of the
Boeing AH-64 Apache.
produced more than 1 600 first generation, single-engined Cobras,
including variants. Later models were progressively improved in the
key areas of engine power, performance and armament. In the 1970s
twin-engined versions replaced the first generation, single-engined
Cobras. Both single-
and twin-engined Bell Model 209s have been widely
exported. This helicopter was license-produced in Japan
initial production variant.
AH-1J Sea Cobra was the first twin-engine version,
specially developed for the US Marine Corps (USMC). It was
introduced in 1971. Marines used these helicopters for close-in fire
support of landing forces during amphibious assaults and subsequent
land operations. The AH-1J Sea Cobra has Pratt & Whitney T400
engines, developing 1 800 shp. But the power was limited to 1 530
shp due to helicopter's transmission. The second engine offers additional
backup. It was important, considering that Marine helicopters fly
long distances over the water. In case of failure or damage, the helicopter can limp
home with one engine working. In 1974-1975 a batch of 202 of these
supplied to Iran. The Fuji-Bell has produced the AH-1S for the
Japan's Ground Self Defense Forces.
AH-1Q was an interim US Army version with TOW
missiles, produced by conversion from AH-1G airframes.
AH-1S was a US Army version fitted with a more powerful 1 800 shp T53-703 engine. It
was a production Cobra with TOW capability and other improvements. A
number of older AH-1Q helicopters were modified to the AH-1S standard, while
AH-1S model helicopters were themselves modified into a number of
AH-1P was produced by conversion of AH-1S
helicopters with flat-plate canopies and other revisions.
AH-1F is a
upgraded version. In 1987 all surviving US Army Cobras were updated to a common AH-1F standard.
AH-1T is an
improved TOW-capable version of the AH-1J Sea Cobra.
Cobra is an USMC version. It was adopted in 1986 and is still in
service. The Super Cobra was designed to fly and provide fire
support in both day and night environment. Its avionics, engines and
weapons were substantially upgraded. The AH-1W Super Cobra is
powered by General Electric T700-GE-401 turboshaft engines,
developing 1 725 shp each. It is armed with a three-barreled 20 mm
cannon and carries 750 rounds of ammunition. The cannon fires at a
rate of 675 rounds per minute. It can carry additional pods with miniguns on stub wings. The Super Cobra can carry
anti-tank guided missiles. It can actually carry both types of
missiles on the same mission. Other weapons of this helicopter are
pods with various unguided rockets, cluster munitions, napalm bombs,
AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-92 Stinger
short-range air-to-air missiles, and AGM-122
Sidearm anti-radiation missiles. This gunship also has provision for
AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles. This attack helicopter is
fitted with a night targeting system, which includes a
Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), low-light TV camera, laser
rangefinder and an autotrack system. Fuel is contained within two
fuselage fuel cells. Up to 4 more external tanks with fuel can be
carried for extended range. During the Persian Gulf War a total of
48 AH-1W attack helicopters were used. These destroyed 97 tanks, 104
armored personnel carriers, 16 bunkers and 2 anti-aircraft sites.
Not a single USMC helicopter was lost.
AH-1Z Viper is a recent version. It made its first flight in
2000 and was adopted by the US Marine Corps in 2010. Full-scale
production commenced in 2012. Currently it is one of the most
powerful, capable and advanced attack helicopters in the world. This
version features a four-bladed rotor, which reduced vibrations by up
to 70 percent and significantly improved flying characteristics.
Also there were many other changes. Most of the AH-1Z Vipers are
upgraded form the previous AH-1W Super Cobras. About one third are
newly-built helicopters. It is planned that the AH-1Z will serve
well into the 21st century.