The development of the first attack helicopter grew out of experience with the modified armed utility helicopters. Bell Helicopter designed the AH-1 Cobra based on the best features of the U.S. Army UH-1 "Huey" to meet the Army's requirements for direct aerial fire support, armed escort, and reconnaissance.
The Huey Cobra (or just Cobra) uses the basic transmission, modified "540" rotor system, and power plant of the UH-1C, a streamlined fuselage using many parts in common with the UH-1D tail boom and body, combined with the nose components from the experimental Bell (Model 207) Sioux Scout. The Bell (Model 209) AH-1F was delivered in March 1965 and deployed to Vietnam starting in September 1967 to partly replace the UH-1 Huey in its gun ship capacity. The upgraded AH-1G Cobra featured a computerized stability-augmentation system, and was powered by a single Lycoming T53-L-13B 1400 shp engine.
The AH-1 Cobra is distinguished by its wide-bladed rotor and slim fuselage that give it twice the speed of the UH-1B "Huey" and the ability to loiter over the target area three times as long. Other improvements were the armament system and the tandem seating of the two crew members arranged in a 38 inch width, a much smaller target than the 100 inch wide UH-1 "Huey".
In addition to a 7.62mm machine gun, armament of the AH-1G Cobra, or "Snake", has had numerous options:
2.75 inch (70mm) Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFARs) in M158 seven-tube or M200 19-tube rocket launchers
Chin-turret on the M28/M28A1 armament subsystem mounting the M134 7.62mm "Minigun" and the M129 40mm grenade launcher
Single M134 7.62mm "Minigun" in a XM64 (TAT-102) chin-turret
M134 7.62mm "Minigun" in fixed side-mounting M18/M18A1 gun pod
Port side mounted M195 20mm automatic gun on the M35 armament subsystem
M118 smoke grenade dispenser
TOW and Hellfire anti-armor missiles
Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles
Sidearm anti-radar missiles
Hydra 70 rockets
The Army utilized AH-1F, G, E, P and S Cobra models. The Marine Corps flew the AH-1G, AH-1J, and AT-1T, upgraded to the AH-1W Super Cobra in 1986.
AH-1W of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Al Qaim, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 17 November 2005.
AH-1G. U.S. Army Photo.
AH-1G. U.S. Army Photo.
AH-1G Cobra. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit.
AH-1G Cobra with 4ID markings at 4th Infantry Division Museum, Ft. Hood, TX, 2 December 2005. This helicopter served in Vietham with the 11th ACR (Armored Cavalry Regiment) and was damaged in combat twice. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit.