A Farewell to the Bell AH-1W “SuperCobra”

A well-deserved retirement after 51 years of service for the United States Marine Corps.

A Bell AH-1W form the Marine Corps flies over the Atlantic ocean in a training mission. Source Bell.

The Bell AH-1 has been in service with the United States Marine Corps for fifty-one years. During this period, the Marines have operated various variants of the Bell AH-1, from the single-engine AH-1G to the twin-engine AH-1Z.

Now, after 34 years, they have retired their last AH-1W, the last of those equipped with a two-bladed rotor, leaving only the AH-1Z with a four-bladed rotor in service.

The AH-1W made its first flight on November 16, 1983, and deliveries to the Marines began on March 27, 1986, with a total of 179 units delivered until 1999, having participated in numerous combat actions, since the invasion of Grenada to fight the Islamic State, through the liberation of Kuwait, and the conflict in the Balkans.

The Bell AH-1 is one of the few helicopters in the world with fully-integrated air-to-air missile capability, giving it a greater aerial advantage. Source Bell.

Just as the early AH-1G Cobra used the UH-1H rotor and dynamic system, the AH-1W were equipped with the Bell 412 two-bladed rotor, and the General Electric T700-GE-401 engine, which increased its carrying capacity.

The AH-1W was developed as the AH-1T+ for Iran with the General Electric T700-GE-700 engine, but the Islamic revolution in that country put a stop to that program. Later on, the Marines chose that model instead of a naval version of the McDonnell Douglas AH-64.

In addition, the ability to fire various types of missiles was added and some changes were made to improve the ability to survive in combat, such as diffusers in the exhaust of the engines to reduce the infrared footprint and self-defense systems against missiles and night vision equipment to detect and attack targets.

The more advanced AH-1Z model has a four-bladed rotor and an enhanced avionic suite. Source Bell.

In 2010 the AH-1W version, which was the only AH-1 model already in service with the Marines, began to be replaced with the more advanced AH-1Z model of which the Marines have acquired 226 units, 37 of which were produced from the AH-1W version — the last of those equipped with a two-bladed rotor — only remaining in service the AH-1Z with a four-bladed rotor among other improvements to the model.

During its service for the Marine Corps, the AH-1Ws have completed 933,314 flight hours!

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Aerospace Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space with a great passion for Technology and Science.

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