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  • Bell AH-1 SuperCobra Attack Helicopter

    The Bell AH-1 SuperCobra attack helicopter represents an evolved, twin-engine variant of the original Vietnam War-era AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter line.

     Updated: 4/1/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The AH-1 "SuperCobra" is a further evolution of the original Vietnam War-era AH-1 "Cobra" born in the 1960s. The SuperCobra is differentiated primarily by its twin-engine configuration compared to the single-engine nature of the Cobra system. The SuperCobra achieved its first flight in 1969 and entered service (as the AH-1J) in 1971. This was followed by the modernized AH-1W in 1986. To date, some 1,270 examples have been produced and the type stocks the inventories of the United States (Marines), the Iranian Army, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. The AH-1W is being superseded by the newer AH-1Z "Viper" standard.

    Outwardly, the SuperCobra family retains much of the external appearance of the original Cobra design including its two-person, stepped cockpit creating a slim profile when viewed from the front. The powered, chin-mounted turret has also been carried over as had the Cobra's fixed, skid landing equipment. The pilot is seated in the rear, elevated cockpit with the weapon's officer in the front cockpit (flight and weapons controls are doubled). The engine pairing drives a two-bladed main rotor and two-bladed tail rotor (the latter affixed to the starboard side of the vertical tail fin. Like the Cobra, the SuperCobra can undertake a variety of battlefield roles that go beyond its base anti-armor capabilities. It can be used in close support of friendly forces, support special forces operations and provide security for convoys. Armed reconnaissance allows the aircraft to both track and engage unsuspecting foes at range through cannon fire, rockets and missiles.

    The SuperCobra is outfitted with a 20mm M197 3-barreled Gatling cannon fitted to a powered M97 turret assembly under the nose as standard. This system is afforded 750 rounds of 20mm projectiles. The SuperCobra is also cleared to fire 2.75" (70mm) Mk 40 or Hydra 70 series rockets from multiple-shot pods. It can replace these with the larger 5" (127mm) "Zuni" series rockets fired from four-shot LAU-10D/A series launcher systems. Anti-armor sorties are managed by TOW missile launchers (four-shot launchers) and AGM-114 "Hellfire" anti-tank missiles (M272 launchers). MIssiles are limited to the outboard underwing hardpoint. To counter low-flying aerial threats, the platform can also field the AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range missile at each wingtip. External fuel tanks can also be fitted to help improved operational ranges.

    Images Gallery


    Bell AH-1W SuperCobra Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1971
    Type: Attack Helicopter
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Bell Helicopter Textron - USA
    Production Total: 1,271

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 2
    Length: 45.51 feet (13.87 meters)
    Width: 47.90 feet (14.60 meters)
    Height: 14.57 feet (4.44 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 10,919 lb (4,953 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 14,749 lb (6,690 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x General Electric T700-GE-401 Turboshafts developing 1,723 shaft horsepower while driving two-blade main and two-blade tail rotors.

    Maximum Speed: 173 mph (278 kph; 150 knots)
    Maximum Range: 365 miles (587 km)
    Service Ceiling: 13,999 feet (4,267 meters; 2.65 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 800 feet-per-minute (244 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 20mm 3-barreled Gatling gun in powered chin turret.


    8 x Hughes TOW anti-tank missiles (quad launcher on outboard wing station).
    8 x AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armor missiles (quad launcher on outboard wing station).
    2 x AIM-9L short-range air-to-air missiles
    2 x AGM-122A Sidearm air-to-surface anti-radiation missiles.
    2 x 2.75in 7-Shot Munition Dispensing/HE Rocket Pods
    2 x 2.75in 19-Shot Munition Dispensing/HE Rocket Pods
    2 x 7.62mm Machine Gun pods

    Also support for Fuel Air Explosive and Conventional Drop Bombs as required as well as external fuel tanks for improved range.

    Global Operators / Customers

    South Korea; Taiwan; Turkey; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    AH-1J "SeaCobra" - Base Twin Engine Model

    AH-1J "International" - SeaCobra Export Variant

    AH-1T "Improved SeaCobra" - Improved SeaCobra; lengthened fuselage and tail; upgraded gearbox; upgraded powerplants.

    AH-1W "SuperCobra" / "Whiskey Cobra" - Improved engines and weapons suite; day/night operation capability.

    AH-1Z "Viper" / "Zulu Cobra" - 4-Bladed Main Rotor; implementation of Night Targeting System (NTS).

    AH-1RO "Dracula" - Proposed Romanian Model

    AH-1RO "Dracula" - Proposed Romanian Export Model

    AH-1Z "King Cobra" - Proposed AH-1Z Export Model for Turkey; never produced.

    Model 309 "King Cobra" - Developmental Twin-Engine Cobra fitting 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada T400-CP-400 turboshaft engines.

    "CobraVenom" - Proposed British Model

    Panha 2091 "Toufan" - Upgraded Iranian Cobras based on the AH-1J "International" model; indigenous Iranian canopy; revised instrument panels; FLIR installation.