|Armed helicopters came into widespread use in
in the early Sixties. Limitations of the modified armed utility
helicopters used led to the specially configured attack helicopter.
Bell Helicopter (now Bell Helicopter Textron) had
evolved the first attack helicopter design, based on the use of
UH-1 Huey dynamics (rotors, drives, engine) with a new fuselage.
Bell also built a company-sponsored, scaled-down prototype using
H-13/Model 47 series components, its Model 207 Sioux Scout.
While the Army went forward with its sophisticated
aerial fire support system) program to provide an attack helicopter,
Bell proceeded with another company-sponsored prototype, Model
209, using the Huey dynamics and an airframe similar to the initial
design. The 209 first flew in September 1965. The urgent need
for greater armed helicopter performance in Vietnam and the success
of the 209 led to Army orders for prototypes and production models
of the 209 as interim attack helicopters, pending production of
the AAFSS (which, finally, was never to occur). Carried over from
the 209 were the slim fuselage with tandem cockpits (gunner in
front of pilot), the Lycoming T-53 engine, stub wings with store
stations and the under nose turret. Its retractable skid landing
gear was replaced by a fixed gear. As the AH-1G, the Huey Cobra
went into combat in September 1967.
The Marines also operated armed Hueys in Vietnam, and
their own version of the Cobra in May 1968. Featuring the Pratt
and Whitney Twinpac T400 engine (two 900-hp turboshaft engines
coupled together) giving an overall increase in installed power,
the AH-1J Sea Cobra included a new nose turret gun, the three
barrel XM-197 20mm and other improvements. While development and
production of the first 49 ordered were under way, the Marines
obtained 38 AH-1Gs from the Army. After initial training of Marines
by the Army, Marine Huey Cobras first became operational in April
1969 with VMO-2 in Vietnam. In December 1969, the AH-1Gs were
transferred to HML-367. After flight tests beginning that same
month and subsequent BIS trials, the first AH-1Js joined them
in February 1971, entering combat the following month. AH-1Js,
including those of HMA-369, participated in SEAsia operations
until final withdrawal and continued as the Marine's attack helicopter
afterwards, a total of 67 being delivered. The Marine AH-1Gs became
the reserve helicopter attack squadron's aircraft.
With increasing demands for higher performance,
greater load-carrying capability in high temperature conditions,
Bell developed improved dynamic components for the Huey series.
Application of these components, which included a larger diameter
rotor, led to the 309 attack helo in the early Seventies. This
allowed an increased payload, providing more combat capability.
The subsequent Marine-ordered version of the King Cobra was designated
the AH-1T. In addition to the modifications for improved combat
effectiveness, major efforts were made to incorporate the lessons
of the Cobra experience in achieving greater reliability and
With the TOW missile system added to its weapons, the AH-1T gave
Marines a ground attack capability far beyond that first envisioned
by their predecessors who took the first Marine Huey Cobras into
combat in the late 1960s.
An upgrade to the AT-1T, the AH-1W was received in
AH-1W Super Cobra provides full night-fighting capability with
the Night Targeting System (NTS). The Super Cobra is armed with
a 20mm turret gun, TOW, Hellfire, Sidewinder, Sidearm missiles,
and 5 inch or 2.75 inch rockets. Future upgraded and modifications
for the AH-1W are underway or in the planning stages.