The AH-1 Cobra is a legendary helicopter, thanks to its participation in countless military conflicts and its appearances in many action movies and video games. Examples are “Con Air”, “I Am Legend”, “Mission: Impossible III” or Call of Duty: Black Ops.
On November 2, after 60 years of production, the last Cobra attack helicopter to roll out of the Bell factory gate in Amarillo, Texas, was delivered to the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
The model received by the U.S. Marines, the AH-1Z Viper (based on the AH-1W SuperCobra), also called the “Zulu Cobra,” features state-of-the-art technology, although it uses a fuselage that has not radically changed since entering service in 1962. The helicopter is crewed by two people, has a modern four-bladed rotor (as opposed to two in the past) and uses two engines.
State-of-the-art avionics are available in the cockpit, and the aircraft has an M197 three-barrelled gun as its main armament. Various types of guided (air-to-air, air-to-ground) or unguided missiles can be mounted on the outer pylons.
One unit costs over $30 million.
Cobra helicopters became famous in the Vietnam War, alongside the Bell UH-1 “Huey” models, with which they share many components. Because these aircraft were so widely used, that conflict was also called the “Helicopter War”.
The AH-1Z Viper aircraft became part of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 (HMLAT-303) and would be used for pilot training.
Cobra helicopters recently delivered to US forces will most likely remain in active service decades from now. The U.S. Marine Corps does not plan to begin replacing its attack helicopter fleet until 2030.
Cobra production ceases at an interesting time. The war in Ukraine has called into question the effectiveness of helicopters in modern warfare, along with that of tanks. The Russians lost dozens of such aircraft in the conflict, and many of them fell victim to cheap, portable systems like the FIM-92 Stinger.
Also read: Top 5: Ukraine’s best weapons used against Russia by battlefield impact