The AH-1 Super Cobra is a two-place, twin-engine attack helicopter capable of land- or sea-based operations. It provides rotary-wing close air support (CAS), anti-armor/anti-helicopter, armed escort, armed and visual reconnaissance, and supporting arms coordination (SAC) during day/night and adverse weather conditions.
The Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter has struck fear in the hearts of the enemy for more than 30 years. Armed helicopters came into widespread use in Vietnam in the early Sixties. Limitations of the modified armed utility helicopters used led to the specially configured attack helicopter. Instead, the AH-1F Cobra, with its proven firepower and maneuverability, went on to fight in every major US military operation since Vietnam. The Cobra continues its service with the US Marines, as well as eight other foreign nations
The Cobra traces its lineage from the UH-1 Huey and was originally developed for the US Army in the mid-sixties. The original Cobra retained the Huey's engine, transmission, and other major parts, but replaced the Huey's bulky fuselage with a thin profile fuselage with tandem seating. The Marine Corps later adopted a twin engine variant of the airframe to perform troop helicopter escort and provide autonomous tank killing capability. Through the years, the Cobra has gone through extensive modernization. Today's Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra boasts an advanced Night Targeting System (NTS) and a full suite of survivability equipment.
The primary missions of the Cobra are helicopter Close Air Support (CAS), escort of transport helicopters and ground convoys, armed reconnaissance, helicopter air-to-air attack, anti-shipping operations, and coordination and terminal control of fixed wing CAS, artillery, mortars, and naval gunfire.It is the only western attack helicopter with a proven air-to-air and anti-radar missile capability. The rear seat pilot is primarily responsible for maneuvering the aircraft. The front pilot controls the aircraft's weapons systems, but he also has a full set aircraft controls.The development of the Bell AH-1 "Huey" Cobra dates back to the 1960's when the need was recognized for a light fast armed escort helicopter designed specifically to carry weapons and be able to target them very accurately. The Cobra traces its lineage from the UH-1 Huey and was originally developed for the US Army in the mid-sixties. The original Cobra retained the Huey's engine, transmission, and other major parts, but replaced the Huey's bulky fuselage with a thin profile fuselage with tandem seating. Bell Helicopter (now Bell Helicopter Textron) had already 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.
The Lockheed AH-56A Cheyenne was designed to meet the US Army's requirement for the Advance Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS), a program which began in 1964. Lockheed rolled-out the first prototype on 03 May 1967. While the Army went forward with its sophisticated AAFSS 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. Bell Helicopter-Textron began design of the model 209 AH-1 "Huey" Cobra in 1965 as a successor to it's UH-1B/UH-1C "Huey" in the gun ship role. The result, incorporating the best features from the UH-1C "Huey", and many parts in common with the UH-1D, was the World's first attack helicopter. The 209 first flew in September 1965. The Army wanted a small agile Advanced Attack Helicopter (AAH) with a less complicated fire control and navigation system than the AH-56A Cheyenne. 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. The Bell (model 209) AH-1G Cobra featured the new "540" wide-bladed rotor, and a slim fuselage, that gave it twice the speed of the UH-1B Huey. It could could loiter over the target area three times as long, and had an improved armament system over previous gun ships.
The Lycoming T53 is a turboshaft engine used on helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft (in turboprop form) since the 1950s. It was designed by a team headed by Anselm Franz, who was the chief designer of the famed Junkers Jumo 004 during World War II. A much larger engine, similar in overall design, became the Lycoming T55. Both engines are now part of Honeywell Aerospace.
The decision to buy the Cobra, which was built primarily of Huey parts and thus a quick and relatively cheap development for Bell, created strong conflict within the Army between operators and material developers. At this time the material developers had spent years and huge amounts of money developing the advanced AH-56 Cheyenne attack and reconnaissance helicopter. After several months of discussion, the Chief of Staff of the Army called the director of Army Aviation and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army into his office to settle the issue. He asked the director of Army Aviation Colonel George P. Seneff what the soldiers in Vietnam needed. Colonel Seneff told Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson and Vice Chief of Staff General Creighton Abrams that the soldiers were dying now, not in the future. They needed the Cobra. Partly based on their suggestion, General Johnson made the decision to buy the Cobra.
|In 1966, the DOD contracted with Bell Helicopter, Inc. (BHI) for 1,100 AH-1G aircraft, which logged more than 1 million flight hours in Vietnam. Subsequently, the USMC desired a twin engine AH-1G; thus, the SEA COBRA (AH-1J) was developed. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) then identified a need for more armaments; thus, the AH-1T upgrade was initiated. This aircraft had an extended tailboom and fuselage and an upgraded transmission and engines.
The AH-1 is fully capable of performing its attack mission in all weather conditions. Additional missions include direct air support, antitank, armed escort, and air to air combat. The TOW missile targeting system uses a telescopic sight unit (traverse 110º, elevation 60º/+30º), a laser augmented tracking capability, thermal sights and a FLIR to allow for acquisition, launch, and tracking of all types of TOW missiles in all weather conditions.
The BGM-71 TOW is an anti-tank missile. "BGM" is a weapon classification that stands for "Multiple Environment (B), Surface-Attack (G), Missile (M)". "TOW" is an acronym that stands for "Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile". The TOW was first produced in 1970 and is one of the two most widely used anti-tank guided missiles in the world.
The Cobra also uses a digital ballistic computer, a HUD, Doppler nav, and a low speed air data sensor on the starboard side for firing, and has in-flight boresighting. External stores are mounted on underwing external stores points. Each wing has two hardpoints for a total of four stations. A representative mix when targeting armor formations would be eight TOW missiles, two 2.75-in rocket pods, and 750x 20-mm rounds. The gun must be centered before firing underwing stores. Armored cockpit can withstand small arms fire, and composite blades and tailboom are able withstand damage from 23-mm cannon hits.small arms fire, and composite blades and tailboom able to withstand damage from 23-mm cannon hits.
The Marines depend on attack helicopters to provide close-in fire support coordination in serial and ground escort operations. Such support is required during amphibious ship-to-shore movements and subsequent shore operations within the objective area. AH-1 is designed for the following tasks:
The AH-1W is operated in eight composite HMLA squadrons composed of 18 AH-1 and 9 UH-1 aircraft. The AH-1W is curretnly being outfitted with a Night Targeting System/Forward Looking Infrared Radar that provides laser rangefinding/designating and camera capabilities.
The AH-1W is operated in eight composite HMLA squadrons composed of 18 AH-1 and 9 UH-1 aircraft. The Marine Corps deployed 4 of 6 active force squadrons (48 AH-1Ws) to Southwest Asia during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. These helicopters destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers and vehicles, 16 bunkers and 2 antiaircraft artillery sites without the loss of any aircraft. The deployment required no additional augmentation to squadron support personnel and only one Bell Helicopter technical representative.
A four bladed version of the AH-1W, designated the AH-1Z, is also under development; the addition of the extra blades dramatically improves the performance envelope of the AH-1W. Currently, the AH-1W is being retrofitted with a Kollsman-manufactured Night Targeting System (NTS). The aircraft is also undergoing a cockpit reconfiguration to allow for easier copilot/gunner access to the NTS. The upgrade of the AH-1W, including the new cockpit, is referred to as the Four Bladed AH-1W (4BW) and the upgrade of the UH-1N drive train is referred to as the Four Bladed UH-1N (4BN). Collectively, the 4BN/4BW effort constitutes the USMC H-1 Upgrades Program.
The Marine Corps plans to upgrade 180 of the AH-1W gunships to the new AH-1Z standard. The first flight is expected in October 2000, to be followed by low-rate initial production beginning in February 2002, with deliveries running from 2004 through 2013.
This program combines upgrades of two USMC H-1 aircraft: the AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter and the UH-1N light utility helicopter. The common element of the two will be identical twin engines and drive trains, including a new four-bladed rotor previously developed but not fielded. In addition, the AH-1 attack helicopter will gain a new integrated cockpit and night targeting system. The upgrade will extend the life of the H-1 two models well into the 21st century. The AH-1 will contribute to precision engagement and full-dimensional protection; the UH-1 will provide support to focused logistics.
The 4BN/4BW program was instituted in the summer of 1996 by combining several lesser upgrades planned but not executed by the Marine Corps. Prior to entry into EMD in September, 1996, DOT&E approved the program's alternative LFT&E plan and USD(A&T) approved a waiver from full-up, system-level LFT&E. The AH-1W will be tested full-up, system-level; the UH-1N received a waiver from full-up, system-level testing. The H-1 Upgrade ORDs require that both helicopters be tolerant to impacts by 12.7mm rounds and have crashworthy enhancements. Additionally, the drive components of the AH-1W should be tolerant to 23mm rounds.
Power Plant: Two General Electric T700-GE-401 Turboshaft engines