The Bell AH-1 Cobra is the attack helicopter that was built by the famed helicopter manufacturer named Bell Helicopter as a single-engine and two-blade aircraft to serve the US Army. The helicopter has been derivative of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois as it used the same engine transmission and the rotor system that was incorporated in the Iroquois.
The Bell AH-1 Cobra belongs to the renowned family of the Huey helicopters and has been nicknamed as either the Snake or the more renowned HueyCobra.
This helicopter was once the main line of attack for the US Army’s attack helicopters but was alter replaced by an advanced helicopter named AH-64 Apache. Still, this does not mean that days of Bell AH-1 Cobra in the skies are over as many of the modified and upgraded versions of the Bell AH-1 Cobra still fly for the other world militaries. Even in US Army’s US Marin Corps division, they still make use of a twin-engine variant of the Bell AH-1 Cobra. For the USMC, it serves as their main attack helicopter. As for the remaining Bell AH-1 Cobra in US Army’s service, they have been converted to serve in the missions for fighting off forest fires after their retirement.
For our readers, we have gathered a bunch of interesting facts about the Bell AH-1 Cobra aka the HueyCobra.
The Bell AH-1 Cobra was only able to come into being after Bell Helicopters took into consideration the designs of many attack gunships in the US Army. As for the final product, it was presented for active duty service back in 1967 and was nicknamed as HueyCobra.
The helicopter took on the mantle of being the primary attack helicopter for the US Army until being replaced by AH-64 Apache.
The helicopter was armed with a wide range of armaments as it had to be used for both direct attack and escort missions. The very first and the original model of the Bell AH-1 Cobra was equipped to have 2 of the 7.62mm multi-barrel mini guns or 2 of the 40mm M129 grenade launchers. In some cases, the helicopter was equipped to have one of each of these two armaments.
In addition to these armaments, the helicopter was also equipped with 70 mm rockets that were either housed inside an M158, which would have 7 rockets, or M200, which would have 19 rockets, rocket launcher.
The upgraded and moderns variants of this helicopter were equipped with the following weaponry.
- General Dynamics 20mm M197 Gatling cannon
- 7 of the 70mm Hydra rockets in M260 rocket launcher
- 19 of the 70mm Hydra rockets in an M261 rocket launcher
- 4 to 8 TOW missiles
The original model of the AH-1 Cobra was powered by the Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft engine that provided the helicopter with nearly 1100 shp (Shaft horse power). This engine and the power from it propelled the helicopter for a top speed of 190 knots with the cruise speed being 145 knots. The aircraft with its fuel capacity was able to have a combat radius of nearly 310 Nautical miles while flying at an altitude of 11400 feet which could be attained with the climbing rate of 1230 fpm (feet per minute).
As for the upgraded and modernized versions of the AH-1 Cobra, they are powered by the Lycoming T53-L-703 engine giving it nearly 1800 shp. This more powerful engine compared to its predecessor increased the service altitude of the helicopter to almost 12200 feet while also giving its climbing rate to be at 1620 fpm.
Still, this engine too was not able to increase the speed of the AH-1 Cobra as it could never exceed its previous top speed but still had an increase in its cruise speed. It improved to almost 170 knots. As for the combat range of these modern AH-1 Cobras, they suffered a decrease with them now is only 274 nautical miles.
The Lycoming T53-L-703 engine was birthed to compliment the already present attack helicopter fleet of UH-1 Iroquois and was nicknamed as HueyCobra but alter shortened to being just the Cobra.
The first operational use of importance by the AH-1 Cobra was conducted back in 1968’s Tet Offensive and later throughout the Vietnam War. The original models of the AH-1 Cobra were used as escort slash attack helicopters for the transport aircraft. They were also paired with scout helicopters to fulfill their roles as the attack helicopter.
The first major action seen by AH-1 Cobra was back in the 1980s when it was deployed for the Operation Urgent Fury held in Grenada. There these helicopters flew for close air support as well as for escort missions. The helicopter again saw action in another conflict which was the 1990’s Persian Gulf War. During his conflict, the helicopter had the role of the support helicopter and there it did considerable damage to the armored unit of the Iraqi forces.
In addition to that, AH-1 Cobra also served its support role in Somalia’s Operation Restore Hope and in the 1994’s US invasion in Haiti.
Despite the AH-1 Cobra being decommissioned for use by the US Army back in 1990 and they were finally retired back in 1999; there are still some AH-1s that are in service of US Marie Corps. These are the twin-engine variants that have been named as AH-1 Super Cobra.
As for the decommissioned versions of the AH-1, they have been given to the US Forest Service department for fending off forest fires after being downgraded.
Used By other militaries
Until 2013, the AH-1 Cobras were in use of Israeli Air Force and were only retired after the army had to make budget cuts. They retired a fleet of 33 Cobras. After being retired from Israeli Air Force, 16 of these helicopters were then sent to Jordanian Air Force which made a nice addition to their already existing fleet of 33 Cobras which they purchased from the USA.
Turkey also purchased 42 Ah-1 Cobras from the USA and they have used them actively in their conflicts with Kurds.