|Bell 209 "Super Cobra"|
The AH-1 HueyCobra evolved from the famous Bell UH-1 Huey. When the AH-1G model arrived in Vietnam it became the first rotorcraft designed specifically to carry arms to enter combat. With the helicopter's miraculous ability to leap in and out of tight places, and with a deadly powerhouse of weapons hanging under its stub wings, the HueyCobra is the infantryman's best friend.
New, hard-hitting Cobras are at work today. The US Army introduced TOW missiles to fight tanks. The Marines went a step further with the laser-guided Hellfire missile, fired from many kilometres away to kill a tank with pinpoint accuracy.
Today, Marines use the AH-1W 'Whiskey Cobra', a warrior for the hi-tech battlefield: as formidable in many situations as the Army's newer Apache, which came along years later. The 'Whiskey Cobra' excels at amphibious warfare, flying from ship decks or from land. Pilots of this thin, graceful ship praise its nimble flying qualities and its flexibility and fighting prowess.
R.Jackson "Helicopters. Military, Civilian, and Rescue Rotorcraft", 2005
Prototype Bell 209, derived from single-engined UH-1, first flew as tandem-seat combat aircraft on 7 September 1965. Built for US armed forces and export and under licence in Japan. Universally known as HueyCobra.
First twin-engined Cobra was AH-1J SeaCobra. delivered from mid-1970; AH-1T Improved SeaCobra followed from 1977. All surviving US Marine Corps AH-IJ SeaCobras withdrawn and 44 (including one ground-based trainer) AH-1T Improved SeaCobras converted to AH-1W to augment new production.
AH-1W SuperCobra: Bell flew AH-1T powered by two GE T700-GE-700; first flight of improved AH-1 T+, including GE T700-GE-401 engines, 16 November 1983. USMC received 169 new-build examples as well as two maintenance trainers; 10 supplied to Turkey and 63 to Taiwan. Missions of AH-1W include anti-armour, escort, multiple-weapon fire support, armed reconnaissance, search and target acquisition.
AH-1W Upgrades: Following abandonment of the proposed Integrated Weapon System (IWS) project in July 1995 and the Marine Observation and Attack Aircraft programme which was intended to provide a replacement for both the AH-1W SuperCobra and the UH-1N Iroquois, the US Marine Corps has opted for a two-stage upgrade of the AH-1W, allowing it to be retained in the active inventory until about 2030. Phase 1 concerned installation of a Night Targeting System (NTS), under which USMC AH-1Ws fitted with the Israeli Tamam laser NTS for dual TOW/Hellfire day, night and adverse weather capability. Conversion of a prototype (162533) was authorised in December 1991, with an initial batch of 25 sets being built by Tamam for delivery from January 1993; joint production with Kollsman was approved in May 1994. A total of 250 sets was required by the USMC, with further sets produced for Turkey and Taiwan. Deliveries of modified aircraft to operational units of the USMC began in June 1994.
A further improvement programme, involving installation of an Embedded Global Positioning System/ Inertial Navigation System (EGI), has been undertaken. Two prototype conversions (162532 and 163936) were delivered to test units for trials in November 1995 and March 1996, with EGI installed on new-build aircraft from Lot 9 onwards, as well as older AH-1Ws as a retrofit programme.
Phase 2 entails installation of the Bell 680 four-blade rotor, offering a 70% reduction in vibration; formerly designated AH-1W (4BWJ, but now known as AH-1Z. Initial trials of the four-blade rotor system were undertaken with AH-1W 161022; bench testing of the new drive system began in second quarter of 1999 and was completed in first quarter of 2000. Bell also demonstrated 30-minute run-dry capability of new intermediate and tail rotor gearboxes in Match 2000. The AH-1Z will be fitted with a new four-blade, all-composites, hingeless/ bearingless rotor system; four-blade composites tail rotor; a new transmission rated at 1,957kW; endplates on horizontal tail surfaces and new wing assemblies able to carry twice the number of anti-armour missiles, as well as more fuel and additionally permitting concurrent carriage of two air-to-air self-defence missiles. Lockheed Martin selected to develop and manufacture AN/AAQ-30 Hawkeye advanced target sighting system (TSS), with work on US$8 million, 54 month, engineering development and integration programme beginning in July 199S. TSS features imaging technology by Wescam of Canada and Lockheed Martin's Sniper third-generation FLIR, as well as colour TV camera, laser ranger, spottracker and designator.
Also to feature on the AH-1Z are 'glass cockpits', Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton Industries) has been selected as prime contractor for this aspect of the upgrade. Digital transfer of information on tactical situation, weaponry and flight data will enable crew interchangeability and allow AH-1Z to be flown from either front or rear seat, Major subcontractors include Rockwell Collins, which will supply active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCDs); Smiths Industries (fire-control system); Meggitt Avionics (standby air data and inertial sensing devices); and BAE Systems (air data computers). Other elements of the upgrade include new stores management system, onboard systems monitoring, mission data loader, HOTCC (hands on throttle, collective and cyclic) controls, airborne target handover system and a new EW suite.
A US$310 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract was awarded to Bell in November 1996, for design, development, fabrication, installation, test and delivery of three engineering development AH-1W SuperCobra Upgrade Aircraft. Assembly of first AH-1Z begun at Hurst, Texas, in April 1999, by which time 85% of drawings had been released, with design work due for completion by end of 1999. Initial AH-1Z (162549, c/n 59001) completed final assembly in second quarter of 2000 and moved to Bell Flight Research Center at Arlington, Texas, for installation of instrumentation and functional testing that included restrained ground running which was completed in October 2000. Formal roll-out at Arlington on 20 November 2000, with first flight following on 7 December; subsequently redesignated as NAH-1Z and may eventually adopt new identity of 166477. Second development aircraft (163933/166478, c/n 59002) was due to fly in 2001, but handling quality problems that emerged early in flight test programme necessitated redesign of horizontal stabiliser assembly and caused delav; this eventually flew for first time on 4 October 2002, having been forestalled by third development aircraft (162532/ 166479, c/n 59003), which made its maiden flight on 26 August 2002. By mid-November 2002, all three aircraft had accumulated 390 flight hours, demonstrating 296km/h cruise and 407km/h maximum speed. Programme includes flight test and evaluation at Patuxent River, Maryland, to where first AH-IZ was airlifted by C-5 Galaxy on 31 March 2001. Weapons testing will take place at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona with other trials at China Lake, California. Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) due to begin in fourth quarter of FY03 and will mostly be conducted at Patuxent River. Testing of full-scale AH-IZ structural test article at Arlington began in April 2000; on 22 November 2002, significant milestone passed with completion of 20,000 hour fatigue life demonstration, but further fatigue and static loads evaluation to follow, with airframe also earmarked for survivabiliry assessment on completion of test duty. Finalisation of the cockpit upgrade design occurred in FY99, with first order for remanufacture due to be placed in FY04. IOC scheduled for 2007, with peak production rate requiring 24 AH-1Ws to be upgraded annually. Initial deliveries will be to HMT-303 at Camp Pendleton, California.
AH-1RO Dracula: Derivative of AH-1W for Romania, which intended to purchase initial batch of 96. Project abandoned by Bell in fourth quarter of 1999.
AH-1Z King Cobra: Version for Turkey, which plans to acquire 145 attack helicopters at cost of US$4 billion; bids for initial batch of 50 (including two prototypes) submitted by end 1997. Announcement of winning contender was expected at start of 1999 but deferred to mid-2000, following delays in flight evaluations of competing types. AH-1Z selected, with announcement made at Farnborough 2000 in late July, when revealed that initial batch of 50 to be purchased at approximate US$1.5 billion cost; contract signature was due in first quarter of 2001, but was delayed because of difficulties over indigenous production of key systems such as mission computer; subsequent concerns over cost caused further delay and contract still not finalised by end of 2002, although Bell remains optimistic that sale will go ahead. Licensed production expected to be undertaken in Turkey by TAI at Ankara; current plan stipulates follow-on batches of 50 and 45 helicopters.
ARH-1Z: Designation allocated to version unsuccessfully proposed for Australian Army Project Air 87 armed reconnaissance helicopter.
MH-1W: In April 1998, Bell revealed a reconnaissance, armed escort and fire support 'multimission' version of the SuperCobra under this designation. Evolved in response to a perceived need for armed helicopters to undertake anti-drug operations, marketing efforts principally aimed at Latin American countries, with presentations to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. Configuration includes a nose-mounted sighting system, with a FLIRStar Safire FLIR sensor, laser range-finder, video recorder and automatic target tracker. Proposed weaponry includes a 20mm cannon as well as 12.7mm gun pods and up to four 70mm rocket pods, but excludes anti-armour missiles and air-to-air missiles.
CUSTOMERS: US Marine Corps (see under Current Versions); total of 179 new-build AH-1W, including 10 diverted to Turkey.
Deliveries to USMC began on 27 March 1986 to Camp Pendleton, California, for HMLA-169, -261, -367 and -369, plus HMT-303 for training; further aircraft issued to USMC Reserve, beginning with HMA-775 (now HMLA-775) at Camp Pendleton from June 1992. Procurement augmented by remanufacture of 43 AH-1Ts to AH-1W for HMLA-167 and -269 at New River, North Carolina; last completed in 1993. Last new-build aircraft for USMC delivered in fourth quarter of 1998.
Turkish Land Forces received five AH-1Ws in 1990 and five in 1993; all diverted from USMC contracts, Taiwan signed letter of offer and acceptance February 1992, for 42 over five years (plus one ground trainer); deliveries began 1993 for training with USMC; first aircraft 501 (ex-164913); in service with 1st Attack Helicopter Squadron at Lung Tan and 2nd AHS at Shinsur. Further 21 AH-lWs subject of Taiwanese re-order announced in mid-1997.
Remanufacture programme calls for 180 AH-1Ws to be produced, with procurement of first Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) batch of six helicopters expected in FY04, with delivery scheduled for 2006; another LRIP batch will follow in FY05, with full-rate production starting in FY06, assuming successful conclusion of operational evaluation.
COSTS: Total value of 1997 follow-on order for 21 AH-1Ws by Taiwan US$479 million. Unit cost of new-build AH-1Z estimated at US$14 million (Turkish proposal, 1998). In late 2002, total cost of remanufacturing 180 AH-1Zs and 100 UH-1Ys expected to be US$6.2 billion.
DESIGN FEATURES: Essentially first-generation attack helicopter, with slightly stepped tandem seating and stub-wings for armament. Two-blade main rotor, similar to that of Bell 214, with strengthened rotor head incorporating Lord Kinematics Lastoflex elastomeric and Teflon-faced bearings. Blade aerofoil Wortmann FX-083 (modified); normal 311 rpm. Tail rotor also similar to that of Bell 214 with greater diameter and blade chord; normal 1,460 rpm. Rotor brake standard. Stub-wings have NACA 0030 section at root; NACA 0024 at tip; incidence 14°; sweepback 14.7°. AH-1Z will incorporate new four-blade rotor system and transmission.
STRUCTURE: Main rotor blades have aluminium spar and aluminium-faced honeycomb aft of spar; tail rotor has aluminium honeycomb with stainless steel skin and leading-edge. Airframe conventional all-metal semi-monocoque.
LANDING GEAR: Non-retractable tubular skid type on AH- 1W; AH-1Z will incorporate new, lighter design with rectangular cross tubes. Ground handling wheels optional.
POWER PLANT: Two General Electric T700-GE-401 turboshafts, each rated at 1,285kW. Transmission rating 1,515kW for take-off; 1,286kW continuous; AH-1Z transmission flat rated at 1,957kW, Fuel (IPS) contained in two interconnected self-sealing rubber fuel cells m fuselage, with protection from damage by 12.7mm ballistic ammunition, total usable capacity 1,128 litres; AH-1Z has larger stub-wings, containing 379 litres of additional fuel. Gravity refuelling point in forward fuselage, pressure refuelling point in rear fuselage. Provision for carriage on underwing stores stations of two or four external fuel tanks each of 291 litres capacity; or two 379 litre tanks; or two 380 and two 290 litre tanks; large tanks on outboard pylons only. Oil capacity 19 litres.
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two in tandem, with co-pilot/ gunner in front seat and pilot at rear in AH-1W; crew stations are interchangeable in AH-1Z. Cockpit is heated, ventilated and air conditioned. Dual controls; lighting compatible with night vision goggles, and armour protection standard. Forward crew door on port side and rear crew door on starboard side, both upward-opening. Inflatable body and head restraint system by Simula of Phoenix, Arizona, nearing end of development in mid-1995; retrofit provisions installed in 1996 production, with system incorporated in 1997 production.
SYSTEMS: Three independent hydraulic systems, pressure 207 bar, for flight controls and other services. Electrical system comprises two 28V 400A DC generators, two 24V 34.5Ah batteries and three inverters; main 115V AC, 1kVA, single-phase at 400Hz, standby 115V AC, 750VA, three-phase at 400Hz and a dedicated 115V AC 365VA single-phase for AIM-9 missile system. AiResearch environmental control unit.
AVIONICS: Comms: Two AN/ARC-210(V) radios, KY-58 TSEC secure voice set; AN/APX-100(V) IFF. AH-1Z to have AN/ARC-210(V) plus Embedded Communication Security (COMSEC) and embedded Mode 4 and Mode 5 IFF.
ARMAMENT: Electrically operated General Electric undernose A/A49E-7(V4) turret housing an M197 three-barrel 20mm gun. A 750-round ammunition container is located in the fuselage directly aft of the turret; firing rate is 675 rds/min; a 16-round burst limiter is incorporated in the firing switch. Either crew member can fire the gun, which can be slaved to a helmet-mounted sight/aiming device. Gun can be tracked 110° to each side, 18° upward, and 50° downward, but barrel length of 1.52m makes it imperative that the M197 is centralised before wing stores are fired. Underwing attachments for up to four LAU-61A (19-tube), LAU-68A, LAU-68A/A, LAU-68B/A or LAU-69A (seven-tube) 70mm Hydra 70 rocket launcher pods; two CBU-55B fuel-air explosive weapons; four SUU-44/A flare dispensers; two M118 grenade dispensers; Mk 45 parachute flares; or two GPU-2A or SUU-11A/A Minigun pods.
Provision for carrying totals of up to eight TOW missiles, eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, two AIM-9L Sidewinder or AGM-122A Sidearrn missiles, on outboard underwing stores stations. Canadian Marconi TOW/ Hellfire control system enables AH-1W to fire both TOW and Hellfire missiles on same mission. AH-1Z expected to include FTM-92 Stinger AAM for self-defence.
Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 2004-2005
- The AH-1 first flew on 7 September 1965; new HueyCobras are produced today.
- Building a HueyCobra requires 38,500 hours of factory-worker time.
- In Operation Desert Storm, four Marine squadrons flew 1,000 missions, including one which destroyed 60 tanks.
- The HueyCobra's stub wing provides some of the lift which keeps it in the air.
- HueyCobra pilots use night vision goggles and electronic sensors to fight in darkness and bad weather.
- The AH-1W 'Whiskey Cobra's' cannon fires a depleted uranium shell.