Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter

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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The AH-1 was the backbone of the United States Army's attack helicopter fleet, but has been replaced by the AH-64 Apache in Army service.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.

Bell AH-1 Cobra

The Bell 209 design was modified for production. The retractable skids were replaced by simpler fixed skids. A new wide-blade rotor was featured. For production, a plexiglass canopy replaced the 209's armored glass canopy which was heavy enough to harm performance. Other changes were incorporated after entering service. The main one of these was moving the tail rotor from the helicopter's left side to the right for improved effectiveness of the rotor.

The U.S. Marine Corps was interested in the Cobra and ordered an improved twin-engined version in 1968 under the designation AH-1J. This would lead to more twin-engine variants. In 1972, the Army sought improved anti-armor capability. Under the Improved Cobra Armament Program (ICAP), trials of eight AH-1s fitted with TOW missiles were conducted in October 1973. After passing qualification tests the following year, Bell was contracted with upgrading 101 AH-1Gs to the TOW-capable AH-1Q configuration. Following AH-1Q operational tests, a more powerful T53 engine and transmission were added from 1976 resulting in the AH-1S version. The AH-1S was upgraded in three steps, culminating with the AH-1F.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: one pilot, one co-pilot/gunner (CPG)
  • Length: 53 ft (16.1 m) (with both rotors turning)
  • Rotor diameter: 44 ft (13.6 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.12 m)
  • Empty weight: 6,600 lb (2,993 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 10,000 lb (4,500 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming T53-L-703 turboshaft, 1,800 shp (1,300 kW)
  • Rotor system: 2 blades on main rotor, 2 blades on tail rotor
  • Fuselage length: 44 ft 7 in (13.6 m)
  • Stub wing span: 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m)

Performance

  • Never exceed speed: 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h)
  • Maximum speed: 149 knots (172 mph, 277 km/h)
  • Range: 274 nmi (315 mi, 510 km)
  • Service ceiling: 12,200 ft (3,720 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,620 ft/min (8.2 m/s)

Armament

  • General Dynamics 20 mm (0.787 in) M197 3-barreled gatling cannon
  • Hydra 70 2.75 in (70 mm) rockets - 7 rockets mounted in the M260 launcher or 19 rockets in the M261 launcher
  • TOW Missiles - 4 or 8 missiles mounted in two-missile launchers on each hardpoint

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