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AH-1 Cobra

The Bell AH-1 Cobra is a two-bladed, single engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter .  It shares a common engine , transmission and rotor system with the older UH-1 Iroquois.  The AH-1 is also referred to as the HueyCobra or Snake.

 The AH-1 was the backbone of the United States Army 's attack helicopter fleet, but has been replaced by the AH-64 Apache in Army service.  Upgraded versions continue to fly with the militaries of several other nations.  The AH-1 twin engine versions remain in service with United States Marine Corps (USMC) as the service's primary attack helicopter.  Surplus AH-1 helicopters have been converted for fighting forest fires.  The United States Forest Service refers to their program as the Firewatch Cobra.  Garlick Helicopters also converts surplus AH-1s for forest firefighting under the name, FireSnake.



Closely related with the development of the Bell AH-1 is the story of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois – predecessor of the modern helicopter, icon of the Vietnam War and still one of the most numerous helicopter types in service today.  The UH-1 made the theory of air cavalry practical, as the new tactics called for US forces to be highly mobile across a wide area.  Unlike before, they would not stand and fight long battles , and they would not stay and hold positions.  Instead, the plan was that the troops carried by fleets of UH-1 "Hueys" would range across the country, to fight the enemy at times and places of their own choice.

It soon became clear that the unarmed troop helicopters were vulnerable against ground fire from Việt Cộng and North Vietnamese troops, particularly as they came down to drop their troops in a landing zone.  Without friendly support from artillery or ground forces, the only way to pacify a landing zone was from the air, preferably with a machine that could closely escort the transport helicopters, and loiter over the landing zone as the battle progressed.  By 1962 a small number of armed UH-1As were used as escorts, armed with multiple machine guns and rocket mounts.

The massive expansion of American military presence in Vietnam opened a new era of war from the air.  The linchpin of US Army tactics were the helicopters, and the protection of those helicopters became a vital role.


General characteristics

Crew: 2: one pilot, one co-pilot/gunner (CPG)

Length: 53 ft (16.2 m) (with both rotors turning)

Rotor diameter: 44 ft (13.4 m)

Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.12 m)

Empty weight : 5,810 lb (2,630 kg)

Max. takeoff weight : 9,500 lb (4,310 kg)

Powerplant : 1 × Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft , 1,100 shp (820 kW)

Rotor system : 2 blades on main rotor, 2 blades on tail rotor

Fuselage length: 44 ft 5 in (13.5 m)

Stub wing span: 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m)



Never exceed speed : 190 knots (219 mph, 352 km/h)

Maximum speed : 149 knots (171 mph, 227 km/h)

Range : 310 nmi (357 mi, 574 km)

Service ceiling : 11,400 ft (3,475 m)

Rate of climb : 1,230 ft/min (6.25 m/s)



 2 × 7.62 mm (0.308 in) multi-barrel Miniguns , or 2 × M129 40 mm Grenade launchers, or one of each, in the M28 turret .  (When one of each was mounted, the minigun was mounted on the right side of the turret, due to feeding problems.)

2.75 in (70 mm) rockets - 7 rockets mounted in the M158 launcher or 19 rockets in the M200 launcher

M18 7.62 mm Minigun pod or XM35 armament subsystem with XM195 20 mm cannon

AH-1F "Modernized" Cobra