Marines declare AH-1Z Cobra operational

The AH-1Z is scheduled to deploy later this year with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. / ©

The AH-1Z is scheduled to deploy later this year with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. / ©

Posted By Philip Stevens

The Marine Corps' newest attack helicopter, the AH-1Z Cobra, achieved Initial Operating Capability ahead of schedule in February.

"Getting the AH-1Z to IOC has been a huge achievement for the entire team," said Col. Harry Hewson, program manager for U.S. Marine Corps Light and Attack Helicopters. "Now we get to put the Zulu in the hands of the Marines and prove that it is indeed the most capable marinized attack helicopter in the world."

As part of the H-1 Upgrades Program, the AH-1Z replaces the currently fielded AH-1W. The AH-1Z will serve a primary role in assault support, offensive air support and air reconnaissance. Cobras will play a supporting role in anti-air warfare, electronic warfare, and control of aircraft and missiles.

The new Cobras feature 10,000 flight-hour airframes, a new four-bladed rotor system with semi-automatic blade fold of the new composite rotor blades, new performance matched transmissions, a new four-bladed tail rotor and drive system, upgraded landing gear, and pylon structural modifications. The Cobra also incorporates modernized, fully integrated cockpits/avionics that will reduce operator work load while improving situational awareness and safety.

The AH-1Z is equipped with two General Electric T700-GE-401 series engines and greatly increased lift capability and stores capacity, giving it a significantly greater ordnance payload for future growth potential. The primary weapon system is the Hellfire missile. It is fully shipboard compatible, and capable of operating from prepared or unprepared landing sites, day or night.

The Marine Corps will remanufacture 131 AH-1W helicopters into AH-1Z aircraft and build 58 new AH-1Zs. The projected inventory for the AH-1Z is 189 helicopters. Full operational capability, defined as when all AH-1Z maintenance and repair support, test equipment, and spares are in place to support active component force primary aircraft authorization, is expected to be achieved in 2020.

AH-1Z Cobras were first delivered in 2007 by prime contractor Bell Helicopter Textron Incorporated. The Department of Defense authorized the Cobra for full-rate production in November 2010. The first deployment of the AH-1Z is scheduled for later this year with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. This will be the first opportunity for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y to deploy together. The UH-1Y is already on its third rotation to Operation Enduring Freedom.

"The expeditionary agility that the Yankee/Zulu package brings to the Marine Air/Ground Task Force is exactly what the Marine Corps needs as we continue to fight two wars and conduct numerous other engagements in every clime and place," Hewson said. "I am proud to be a part of the team that is making that happen."

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Source: Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)

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