STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Bell Helicopter Textron - USA
OPERATORS: Iran; United States
LENGTH: 53.35 feet (16.26 meters)
WIDTH: 43.96 feet (13.4 meters)
HEIGHT: 13.71 feet (4.18 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 6,614 pounds (3,000 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 10,009 pounds (4,540 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Pratt & Whitney Canada T400-CP-400 (PT6T-3 "Twin-Pac", limited to 1,530shp) turboshaft engine developing 1,800 shaft horsepower to two-bladed main rotor and two-bladed tail rotor.
SPEED (MAX): 175 miles-per-hour (282 kilometers-per-hour; 152 knots)
RANGE: 357 miles (575 kilometers; 310 nautical miles)
CEILING: 10,548 feet (3,215 meters; 2.00 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,090 feet-per-minute (332 meters-per-minute)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Bell AH-1J SeaCobra Dedicated Two-Seat Attack Helicopter.
Entry last updated on 6/14/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
In the latter part of the 1960s, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) had enough interest in the new U.S. Army attack helicopter - the single-engine, two-seat Bell AH-1 "HueyCobra" - that it commissioned for a more capable twin-engine version for maritime use. The Army's AH-1G model was selected as the starting point with the most prominent change being 2 x PT6T-3 turboshafts coupled to a combining transmission system for 1,800 total shaft horsepower. The engine pairing was collectively recognized as the "Turbo Twin-Pac" and formally designated the Pratt & Whitney Canada T400-CP-400). Additional changes lay in the chin armament which added a 20mm three-barreled Gatling-style cannon in a General Electric M97 turret while, by and large, the helicopter remained faithful to the original U.S. Army offering.
The U.S. Army's AH-1 itself held origins in the famous Bell UH-1 "Huey" series transport helicopter to which the AH-1 borrowed much from the earlier Bell product though extensively modified for the dedicated attack role. The attack helicopter was used as a replacement for the several make-shift gunships in service with American forces during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The USMC variant of the AH-1G was specifically modified to include the dual-engine layout for increased survivability, particularly in the maritime (over-water) environment that the service's helicopters were expected to operate in. The branch ordered the AH-1J through a batch of 49 helicopters in 1968.
The powerplant drove a two-blade main rotor and two-blade tail rotor, the latter set to the starboard side of the tail fin and driven by a shaft housed in the tail boom. The fuselage retained the same slim head-on profile as the AH-1G and seated its crew of two in a standard tandem arrangement - the pilot at the rear and the weapons officer/co-pilot in front. Performance included a never-exceed-speed of 220 miles per hour, a maximum speed of 175 miles per hour, a range out to 560 miles, a service ceiling up to 10,500 feet, and a rate-of-climb of 1,090 feet per minute.
The USMC introduced their "SeaCobra" during September of 1970 and first actions centered around the American involvement in Vietnam in the coastal "hunter-killer" role. The helicopters were primarily armed through multi-shot rocket pods slung under their wingstubs which held two hardpoints apiece. The AH-1J SeaCobra was then offered in an export guise as the AH-1J "International" of which Iran became an operator of.
In 1974, a new version was ordered as the AH-1T "Improved SeaCobra". This model incorporated a new main rotor (from the Bell Model 214), upgraded gearbox, and lengthened fuselage and tailboom. The mark also included support for the Hughes BGM-71A TOW anti-tank missile but the weight added by the changes led to a decrease in performance. This forced Bell to offer 2 x General Electric T700-GE-401 turboshaft engines in 1980 and this, with other modifications including broadened weapons support (Hellfire ATGM, AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM) and day/night capabilities, led to the modernized AH-1W "SuperCobra" (the "Whiskey Cobra") mark. The AH-1W itself came to life as a re-engined AH-1T intended for sale to Iran.
The AH-1J was ultimately supplanted in USMC service by the AH-1W. Twin-engined Cobras saw combat service during the 1991 Gulf War in the tank-killing role as well as the American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq during the 2000s. While the AH-1W remains the standard attack helicopter for the USMC, it is being replaced by the incoming AH-1Z "Viper" mark ("Zulu Cobra") as of this writing (2014) bringing with it improved avionics, uprated engines, and a four-blade main rotor among other changes.
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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (175mph).
Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Bell AH-1J SeaCobra's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units