AH-1F Cobra

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Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter (Textron), Ft. Worth, TX
Designation: AH-1
Version: F
Nickname: Cobra
Type: Attack
First Flew: (initial production  of model AH-1G in 1966)
Length: 44" 7"
Height: 13' 5"
Rotor Span: 44 feet
Empty Weight: 6,600  lbs
Crew: 2
Armament: 2 × 7.62 mm (0.308 in) multi-barrel Miniguns, or 2 × M129 40 mm Grenade launchers, or one of each, in the M28 turret. 2.75 in (70 mm) rockets - 7 rockets mounted in the M158 launcher or 19 rockets in the M200 launcher M18 7.62 mm Minigun pod or XM35 armament subsystem with XM195 20 mm cannon
No. of Engines: 1
Powerplant: Lycoming T53-L703 (same as UH-1H)
Horsepower (each): 1800 shaft horsepower (shp)
Range: 310  miles
Cruise Speed: 140 knots
Max Speed: 149 knots 
Climb: 1200-1600 Ft/min
Ceiling: 11,400 Ft (F model)


In the early stages of the war in Vietnam, the United States faced a committed enemy skilled in the tactics of irregular warfare. Trained to avoid the overwhelming power of conventional forces, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army melted into the countryside, mountains and jungles of the south whenever significant opposition threatened. U.S. tacticians quickly determined a highly mobile, rapidly deployable force capable of successfully trapping and engaging the elusive foe was a crucial to defeating such a fluid enemy. The Airmobile concept, with helicopter transport as the key feature, became the favored solution.


Freed from the constraints of road travel, helicopter borne assault forces could make lightning strikes anywhere, including areas of undeveloped or adverse terrain. Although initially successful, the speed and mobility of the forces were attained at the expense of severely decreasing fire support from traditional heavy weapons. Without armored vehicles and artillery, U.S. troops were at a disadvantage. Often, a well-prepared enemy limited the U.S.'s ability to insert and envelop, leading to many of the communist fighters escaping. The United States Army addressed the difficulty by developing helicopter gunships. Providing a percentage of the assault force helicopters with rockets, heavy machine guns and cannons, allowed supporting fire to be brought directly to bear against enemy troop concentrations permitting the Airmobile Infantry to deploy and attack without incurring crippling losses. Initial attempts to modify existing UH-1 Hueys proved problematic as the heavily loaded gunships suffered from poor performance making them incapable of keeping-up with the lighter and more maneuverable transports.


Although the Army assumed only a purpose-built attack helicopter would do, Bell Corporation believed an airframe modification utilizing the battle-tested, operationally proven components of the UH-1 would provide a quicker answer. Combining the UH-1's 540-rotor system, T53 engine, transmission and tail rotor with a sleek, trimmed-down fuselage and a two-man cockpit, Bell created a prototype design the Bell 209. By early 1966, the Bell 209 was adopted as the AH-1G Huey Cobra. "A" indicating Attack and the "G" designation showing that Bell believed the Cobra to be simply a modification of the UH-1 Huey design. In combat, the AH-1 Cobras proved to be an exceptionally maneuverable and deadly escort and fire-support aircraft. Taking advantage of the new Attack helicopters capabilities, the Army formed Hunter-Killer Teams consisting of AH-1 Cobras and OH-6 Scout helicopters. Using the OH-6 as bait, enemy soldiers were enticed into firing on the Scouts, allowing the AH-1s to identify and destroy their positions. Over 1,100 AH-1s were delivered before active U.S. participation in Vietnam ended in 1973. Undergoing a series of power plant, armament and avionics modifications the Cobra served on through the Gulf War before being officially retired in 2001.


March Field Air Museum's AH-1F, U.S. Army S/N: 69-16416 "Sweet Sixteen" is on loan from the United States Army. The aircraft is a veteran of active service in both Vietnam and the Gulf War. Our AH-1F was affectionately nicknamed by its Gulf War crew in deference to the last two digits of its serial number and the remarkable fact it had never been hit by enemy fire, despite its considerable combat experience.