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.
(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.
53.3 ft (16.26 m)
44.0 ft (13.40 m)
13.7 ft (4.18 m)
6,614 lb (3,000 kg)
10,009 lb (4,540 kg)
+3,395 lb (+1,540 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Bell AH-1J SeaCobra production variant)
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.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 4
AH-1J "SeaCobra" - Base Series Designation; based on the U.S. Army AH-1G airframe; service entry in 1970.
AH-1J "International" - Export model of the AH-1J
AH-1T "Improved SeaCobra" - New main rotor; upgraded gearbox; lengthened fuselage and tailboom; BGM-71A TOW AT missile support.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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