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 110?, elevation 60?/+30?), 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 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:
• Armed escort for helicopters carrying personnel and cargo
• Landing zone fire suppression support
• Visual armed reconnaissance
• Target marking and direction for high-performance attack aircraft
• Convoy escort and fire suppression for ground units
• Operations from air capable ships
• Point target attack of threatening armor
• Self-defense and protection of helicopters carrying personnel and cargo from threatening air-to-air weapon-equipped helicopters
By the early 1980s, USMC aircraft inventory was declining due to attrition; a fully navalized helicopter was sought. In 1983, the USMC contracted with BHI for 44 AH-1Ws. The AH-1W Super Cobra is a day/night marginal weather Marine Corps attack helicopter that provides enroute escort for our assault helicopters and their embarked forces. The AH-1W is a two-place, tandem-seat, twin-engine helicopter capable of land- or sea-based operations. The AH-1W provides fire support and fire support coordination to the landing force during amphibious assaults and subsequent operations ashore. The AH-1W distinguished itself with its more powerful T700-GE-401 fully marinized engines and advanced electronic weapons capability. The AH-1W can fire TOW, Hellfire, and Sidewinder missiles and can be outfitted with Zuni rocket launchers.
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.