AH-1G Cobra Attack Helicopter
AH-1G Cobra Attack Helicopter At the same time, despite the Army’s preference for the AAFSS–for which Bell Helicopter was not selected to compete–Bell stuck with their idea of a smaller and lighter gunship. In January 1965 Bell invested $1 million to proceed with a new design. Mating the proven transmission, the “540” rotor system of the UH-1C augmented by a Stability Control Augmentation System (SCAS), and the T53 turboshaft engine of the UH-1 with the design philosophy of the Sioux Scout, Bell produced the Model 209.
AH-1Q Cobra in Fort Hood, Texas, On 3 September 1965 Bell rolled out its Model 209 prototype, and four days later it made its maiden flight, only eight months after the go-ahead. In April 1966, the design won an evaluation against the other rival helicopters. Then the Army signed the first production contract for 110 aircraft. Bell added Cobra to the UH-1’s Huey nickname to produce its Huey Cobra name for the 209. The Army applied the Cobra name to its AH-1G designation for the helicopter.
The Bell 209 demonstrator was used for the next six years to test weapons and fit of equipment. It had been modified to the match AH-1 production standard by the early 1970s. The demonstrator was retired to the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky and converted to approximately its original appearance.
After the Bell 209 design had been modified for production, the retractable skids were replaced by simpler fixed skids. A new wide-blade rotor was featured. For production, a Plexiglas canopy replaced the 209’s armored glass canopy which was too thick and harmed performance. After entering service, the other changes were incorporated. The main one of these was moving the tail rotor from the helicopter’s left side to the right for improved effectiveness of the rotor.
The Bell model 209 AH-1G Cobra Attack Helicopter
The U.S. Marine Corps was interested in the Cobra and ordered an enhanced twin-engined version in 1968 under the designation AH-1J. This twin-engined version would lead to more twin-engine variants. In 1972, the Army sought improved anti-armor capability. Under the Improved Cobra Armament Program (ICAP), the trials of eight AH-1s fitted with TOW missiles were conducted in October 1973. After passing qualification tests the following year, Bell was contracted with upgrading 101 AH-1Gs to the TOW-capable AH-1Q configuration. Following AH-1Q operational tests, a more powerful T53 engine and transmission were added from 1976 resulting in the AH-1S version. The AH-1S was upgraded in three steps, culminating with the AH-1F.
For AH-1J, AH-1T, AH-1W, AH-1Z and other twin-engine variants, see Bell AH-1 SuperCobra.
209 AH-1G Cobra
By June 1967, the first AH-1G Huey Cobras had been delivered. Originally designated as UH-1H, the “A” for attack designation was soon adopted and when the improved UH-1D became the UH-1H, the Huey Cobra became the AH-1G. The AH-1 was initially considered a variant of the H-1 line, resulting in the G series letter.
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. A team featured one OH-6 flying slow and low to find enemy forces. If the OH-6 drew fire, the Cobra could strike at the then revealed enemy. On 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 built 1,116 AH-1Gs for the U.S. Army between 1967 and 1973, and the Cobras chalked up over a million operational hours in Vietnam; the number of Cobras in service peaked at 1,081. Out of nearly 1,110 AH-1s delivered from 1967 to 1973, approximately 300 were lost to combat and accidents during the war. The U.S. Marine Corps used AH-1G Cobras in Vietnam for a short time before acquiring twin-engine AH-1J Cobras.