The Islamic Republic of Iran received much of its pre-1979 revolution military support from the United States of America. With that said, it procured many top-flight aircraft systems of the period including the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and the Northrop F-5 Tiger fighter series. One oft-forgotten addition to the Iranian military inventory became the improved Bell AH-1J SeaCobra twin-engine light attack helicopter of which the Imperial Iranian Army received 202 examples known under the designation of "AH-1J International". Deliveries of these rotary aircraft spanned from 1975 to 1978. These examples were later transferred under the new banner of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRIA) and were put to good use in the upcoming bloody war with Iraq throughout the 1980s (1980-1988). At least 50 examples were known to be operational by the end of 2008.
Over time, however, these helicopters began to naturally show their age in terms of battlefield viability which prompted an indigenous program to upgrade the line using locally-produced parts and technology wherever possible. The end result has become the PANHA 2091 "Toufan", a modernized version of the original American Bell AH-1J "International" series based on the AH-1J of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). PANHA represents the Iranian Helicopter Support and Renewal Company and the program is known under the name of "Project 2091" with the nickname of "Toufan" currently assigned. PANHA has proven itself capable of reverse-engineering various complex system types in the past and has shown a penchant for helicopters in general - particularly American Bell models- and also serves to maintain these platforms for the Iranian military. The PANHA 2091 was unveiled in 1998 and is currently in limited active operational service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Army.
The Iranian version's most notable visual feature is the new bulletproof canopy design. However, a deeper observational dissection of the revamped helicopter yields all-new forward and rear cockpit instrument panels for the crew of two, a new avionics suite, revised cockpit armoring, and nose-mounted FLIR camera. A Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) has been installed to help manage protection of the vulnerable rear quarters of the aircraft. Integrated GPS has been integrated for improved battlefield navigation. The Toufan retains the SeaCobra's three-barrel M197 20mm Gatling-style cannon in its powered chin turret assembly as well as the landing skid undercarriage. The Toufan also keeps its short armament wingstubs intact for the fitting of various weaponry such as rocket pods and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). Wingstub tips are thought to support the "Misagh-2" short-range surface-to-air missile, this being an Iranian copy of a Chinese copy of the American AIM-9 "Sidewinder".
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Iran Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (PANHA) - Iran Manufacturer(s)
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