US Marines retire the Bell AH-1W "Super Cobra" attack helicopter
After 34 years of service, during which it clocked up 933,614 flight hours, the United States Marine Corps is retiring its fleet of 179 Bell AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack helicopters, though some have been converted to their successor, the AH-1Z Viper.
Originally designated the AH-1T+, the AH-1W Super Cobra is the last Cold-War variant of the Super Cobra family that first entered service in 1971. The AH-1W was developed in the 1980s and entered service in 1986 as the most powerful of the twin-blade, twin-engined Super Cobras, with an improved fire control system that allowed it to carry not only a 20 mm M197 three-barreled Gatling cannon, but also the Mk 49, Zuni, and Hydra 70 rockets, as well as Aim-9 Sidewinder missiles.
The Super Cobra carries a crew of two and can reach a maximum speed of 175 mph (282 km/h). Its range is 358 miles (576 km) and it has a service ceiling of 10,500 ft (3,200 m). Maximum takeoff weight is 10,000 lb (4,536 kg).
Though developed during the Cold War, the AH-1W continued to be manufactured until 1999 and saw service in the Gulf War, Afghanistan, the Iraq War, Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans.
According to Bell, remanufactured AH-1Ws will continue service with the Marines as the AH-1Z Viper, which has four main rotor blades instead of two and has fully integrated air-to-air and anti-armor capabilities, including hard points for the AGM-114 Hellfire quad missile launcher and Longbow radar.
"The AH-1W Super Cobra has served admirably and leaves a remarkable legacy of on-time, on-target attack helicopter support for our Marines," says Colonel David Walsh, the program manager for Light/Attack Helicopter Programs (PMA-276). "Although the AH-1W chapter is closing, the AH-1Z Viper supports our Marines for years to come."
The video below shows the final service flight of the AH-1W Super Cobra.