The Bell AH-1 Cobra is a two-blade, single-engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It was developed using the engine, transmission and rotor system of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois. A member of the prolific Huey family, the AH-1 is also referred to as the HueyCobra or Snake.
The AH-1 was the backbone of the United States Army’s attack helicopter fleet, but has been replaced by the AH-64 Apache in Army service. Upgraded versions continue to fly with the militarizes of several other nations. The AH-1 twin-engine versions remain in service with United States Marine Corps (USMC) as the service’s primary attack helicopter. Surplus AH-1 helicopters have been converted for fighting forest fires.
The Bell AH-1 went into service in 1967. AH-1 Cobras were in use by the Army during the Tet offensive in 1968 and through to the end of the Vietnam War.
Cobras provided fire support for ground forces, escorted transport helicopters and other roles, including aerial rocket artillery (ARA) battalions in the two Airmobile divisions. They also formed “hunter killer” teams by pairing with OH-6A scout helicopters
In 12 September 1968, Capt. Ronald Fogleman was flying an F-100 Super Sabre when the aircraft was shot down and he ejected 200 miles north of Bien Hoa. Fogleman became the only pilot to be rescued by holding on to an Army AH-1G’s deployed gun-panel door. Bell produced more then one thousand of these helicopters.
The AH-1T Cobras were deployed for Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada in 1983, flying close-support and helicopter escort missions, two of the four available lost to anti-aircraft fire while attacking Fort Frederick. Army Cobras participated in Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.
During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Gulf War (1990–91), the Cobras and SuperCobras deployed in a support role. The USMC deployed 91 AH-1W SuperCobras and the US Army 140 AH-1 Cobras of various models; these were operated from forward, dispersed desert bases. Three AH-1s were lost in accidents during fighting and afterward. Cobras destroyed many Iraqi armored vehicles and various targets in the fighting.
Army Cobras provided support for the US humanitarian intervention during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993. They were also employed during the US invasion of Haiti in 1994. US Cobras were also used in operations later in the 1990s.
The U.S. Army phased out the AH-1 during the 1990s and retired the AH-1 from active service in March 1999, offering them to NATO allies.The Army retired the AH-1 from reserves in September 2001. The retired AH-1s have been passed to other nations and to the USDA Forest Service. The AH-1 continues to be in service with the US military, by the US Marine Corps, which operate the twin-engine AH-1W SuperCobra and AH-1Z Viper.
In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service acquired 25 retired AH-1Fs from the U.S. Army. These have been designated Bell 209 and are being converted into Firewatch Cobras with infrared and low light sensors and systems for real time fire monitoring.
The Florida Division of Forestry also acquired three AH-1Ps from the U.S. Army. These are called Bell 209 “Firesnakes” and are equipped to carry a water/fire retardant system.
(The Bell 209 Firewatch Cobra)
(Israeli AH1 Tzefa)
(Flying bulls AH1)
(AH1 SuperCobra with a UH1Y Super Huey)