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Bell AH-1Z Viper


Dedicated Twin-Seat, Twin-Engine Attack Helicopter (2010)


Aviation / Aerospace

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Image from official Bell Helicopters marketing materials.
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Image from official Bell Helicopters marketing materials.
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Image from official Bell Helicopters marketing materials.
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Image from official Bell Helicopters marketing materials.
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Image from official Bell Helicopters marketing materials.
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Image from the United States Department of Defense.

Jump-to: Specifications

The Bell AH-1Z Viper is the ultimate form of the original Vietnam-era AH-1 HueyCobra attack helicopter.



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/23/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
The AH-1Z "Viper" is the latest and most potent form of the Vietnam War-era AH-1 Cobra helicopter debuted in the late 1960s. During development of the single-engine AH-1 for the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps USMC expressed interest in a twin-engine arrangement of the same attack platform which gave rise to the AH-1J "SeaCobra" offshoot introduced in 1971. The line ultimately begat an entire family of twin-engine attack platforms all related to the original AH-1 with over 1,270 SeaCobras, and the related SuperCobra, produced.

The Viper form represents an extension of the AH-1W SuperCobra line for the USMC, intending to keep the product a viable battlefield component into the next several decades. The AH-1Z includes a composite four-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor assemblies (bearingless) driven by 2 x General Electric T700 series turboshaft engines. Performance is enhanced as a result and the added power provides a higher operating weight than in previous Cobra iterations. Many of its onboard systems have been updated and some all-new equipment has been fitted for improved battlefield survivability and situational awareness. The cockpits are now dominated by a pair of Rockwell Collins LCDs and allows for the helicopter to be piloted from either seat. All pertinent mission parameters are showcased through the color displays. A digital 3D map allows for improved navigation. One of the key additions to the Cobra line is use of Helmet Mounted Displays (HMDs) manufactured by BAe Systems (as the "Striker"). The helmets are also used to showcase mission parameters, flight data, and the like as well as being linked to the onboard weapons system for target cueing. The wingstubs have been extended and offer all-modern support for supported USN/USMC ordnance including guided and precision weaponry.

First flight of the AH-1W was on December 8th, 2000 and three prototypes were evaluated into 2003. The USMC marked some 180 AH-1Ws for conversion to the newer AH-1Z standard with the initial production models received in 2005. Some 28 examples have been delivered to date (2014) with the final airframes expected prior to 2019. During 2008, production was modified to include the final 40 helicopters as "new build" models (and not conversions of existing airframes) while and an add-on order for the USMC followed in September of that year to bring its total procurement to 189.

As finalized, the AH-1Z is outfitted with 2 x General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines developing 1,800 shaft horsepower each. Performance numbers include a maximum speed of 255 miles per hour, a range out to 425 miles, a service ceiling of over 20,000 feet, and a rate-of-climb of 2,800 feet per minute.

The helicopter continues the slim profile appearance established by the original AH-1 Cobra of the Vietnam War years. The tandem-seat cockpit seats the pilot in the rear with the weapons officer at front. The tail rotor unit is set to the portside unlike the starboard-side facing of the original Cobra and the follow-up SuperCobra. The undercarriage is of the fixed skid arrangement as in the orignal. The wingstubs feature three hardpoints apiece (six total) and can mount the AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missile, the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile, and the 2.75" Hydra 70 rocket pod in a seven- or nineteen-shot count. The standard armament remains the 20mm M197 three-barreled Gatling-style cannon in the A/A49E powered chin turret. Fire control is assisted through the Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman AN/APG78 "Longbow" radar system.

The AH-1Z "Viper" was formally introduced during 2010. For a short time, the helicopter was under consideration by the government of South Korea as its next standard attack helicopter until the decision was reached in 2013 to pursue the AH-64E Apache instead.

April 2016 - It was announced that the nation of Pakistan had ordered nine AH-1Z Viper helicopters along with fuel kits. The order includes the AGM-114R "Hellfire II" series anti-tank missile. The helicopters are expected to be ready for delivery before the end of 2018.

May 2018 - Bahrain is the latest adopter of the AH-1Z attack helicopter platform. In a deal approved by the United States under the Foreign Military Sales banner in early May, the gulf state will receive a fleet of twelve helicopters including support and various associated munitions (like the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems II guided rockets and AGM-114 "Hellfire" anti-tank missiles). Bahrain currently operates an aging fleet of some twenty-two late-model AH-1 Cobras.

August 2018 - Bell Helicopters has received an award totaling $510 million to build twenty-nine new AH-1Z Viper model attack helicopters for the United States Marine Corps.

November 2018 - Bahrain has confirmed an order for twelve Viper attack helicopters.

December 2018 - The Viper is a contender for a Japanese attack helicopter requirement. Up to fifty will be required to replace an aging fleet of AH-1S Cobra models.

January 2019 - The USMC has placed an order for twenty-five additional AH-1Z attack helicopter models. The deal is worth $439.5 million USD and make up the Lot 16 production phase of the program. The work is expected to be completed by early 2022.

March 2019 - The AH-1Z Viper is in the running to satisfy a Japanese Defense requirement for a New Attack Helicopter (NAH).

May 2019 - The Czech Republic is eyeing the Bell UH-1Y, Bell AH-1Z, and Sikorsky UH-60M "Black Hawk" helicopters as potential replacements for its aging fleet of Soviet-era Mi-24 helicopters.

July 2019 - The Australia military is actively seeking a replacement for its fleet of twenty-two Tiger ARH attack helicopters currently in service. A successor is being sought for operations as soon as 2025-2026 with some twenty-nine new units to be procured. Inline to replace the series is a modernized Tiger ARH from Airbus Helicopters, the American Bell AH-1Z "Viper", and the American Boeing AH-64 "Apache" lines.

December 2019 - The Czech Republic has been named a new operator of the AH-1Z 'Viper' twin-seat attack helicopter series through an order of four of the mark. This is in addition to eight UH-1Y 'Venom' utility types also being purchased. These will be used to succeed an aging stock of Soviet-era Mil Mi-24 'Hind' gunship helicopters.

April 2020 - The U.S. State Department has approved a sale of six AH-1Z models to The Philippines alongside six Boeing AH-64E "Apache" attack types. The nation will review both side-by-side and make a final selection.

September 2020 - The Bell AH-1Z is a potential contender for a standing Australian attack helicopter requirement seeking to succeed an aging stock of Eurocopter (Airbus) Tiger types.

June 2021 - A USMC AH-1Z attack helicopter has been fitted with the new Link 16 series tactical data link system by Northrop Grumman. This marks only the second attack helicopter platform to receive the capability.

Specifications



Service Year
2010

Origin
United States national flag graphic
United States

Status
ACTIVE
In Active Service.
Crew
2

Production
230
UNITS


Bell Helicopter - USA
National flag of Bahrain National flag of Czechia National flag of Pakistan National flag of the Philippines National flag of the United States Bahrain; Czech Republic (announced); Pakistan; Philippines (possible); United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.


VERTICAL TAKE-OFF / LANDING (VTOL)
Series has a tactical capability to take-off and / or land vertically, a quality commonly associated with helicopters.
RADAR-CAPABLE
Houses, or can house (through specialized variants), radar equipment for searching, tracking, and engagement of enemy elements.
COUNTERMEASURES
Survivability enhanced by way of onboard electronic or physical countermeasures enacted by the aircraft or pilot/crew.
ARMORING
Survivability enhanced by armor allocated to protect pilot / crewspaces and / or critical operating systems.
MULTI-ENGINE
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
RUGGED AIRFRAME
Inherent ability of airframe to take considerable damage.
CREW-MANAGED
Beyond a pilot, the aircraft takes advantage of additional crew specialized in specific functions aboard the aircraft.
ENCLOSED CREWSPACE(S)
Features partially- or wholly-enclosed crew workspaces.


Length
58.4 ft
(17.80 m)
Width/Span
47.9 ft
(14.60 m)
Height
14.3 ft
(4.37 m)
Empty Wgt
12,302 lb
(5,580 kg)
MTOW
18,519 lb
(8,400 kg)
Wgt Diff
+6,217 lb
(+2,820 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Bell AH-1Z Viper production variant)
monoplane / mid-mounted / straight
Monoplane
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mid-Mounted
Mainplanes are mounted along the midway point of the sides of the fuselage.
Straight
The planform involves use of basic, straight mainplane members.
(Structural descriptors pertains to the base Bell AH-1Z Viper production variant)
Installed: 2 x General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines developing 1,800 shaft horsepower to four-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor.
Max Speed
255 mph
(410 kph | 221 kts)
Ceiling
19,685 ft
(6,000 m | 4 mi)
Range
264 mi
(425 km | 787 nm)
Rate-of-Climb
2,790 ft/min
(850 m/min)


♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030


(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Bell AH-1Z Viper production variant. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database. View aircraft by powerplant type)
STANDARD:
1 x 20mm M196 three-barreled Gatling-style cannon in powered chin turret.

OPTIONAL:
Six hardpoints on wingstubs for mixed armament including AGM-114 Hellfire Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs), air-to-surface missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and seven- or nineteen-shot 2.75" Hydra 70 rocket pods.


Supported Types


Graphical image of an aircraft automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-tank guided missile
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod


(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 6 (including wingtips)
Mounting Points




-
11
-
7
5
-
-
-
4
6
-
10
-
HARDPOINT(S) KEY:
X

15
13
11
9
7
5
3
1
2
4
6
8
10
12
14


COLOR KEY:
Fuselage Centerline
Fuselage Port/Wingroot
Fuselage Starboard/Wingroot
Wing/Underwing
Wingtip Mount(s)
Internal Bay(s)
Not Used

Note: Diagram above does not take into account inline hardpoints (mounting positions seated one-behind-the-other).


AH-1Z "Viper" - Base Series Designation


Cockpit image of the Bell AH-1Z Viper
(Cockpit image represents the Bell AH-1Z Viper production model)


General Assessment
Firepower  
Performance  
Survivability  
Versatility  
Impact  


Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
84
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Firepower Index (BETA)


This entry's inherent combat value. Rating takes into account weapons support / versatility, available hardpoints, and total carrying capability to produce a combined numerical value.
108.7
View the List
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (255mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Bell AH-1Z Viper operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The 3 qualities we look at for a balanced aircraft design are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (230)
230
36183
44000
This entry's total production compared against the most-produced military and civilian aircraft types in history (Ilyushin IL-2 and Cessna 172, respectively).
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