Air Platforms

USMC SuperCobras to be sold off to international customers

18 January 2018
ith the USMC retiring its AH-1W SuperCobras (pictured) in favour of the AH-1Z Viper, the US government is to begin selling off the surplus helicopters to international customers. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

The US government is to offer surplus Bell AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters to international customers.

Former US Marine Corps (USMC) AH-1W helicopters are to be offered to either Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) customers as the attack helicopters are progressively retired from service in favour of the latest-variant AH-1Z Viper.

As noted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website that listed the planned sell-off, the helicopters will first be equipped with a new ‘glass’ cockpit and pilot/maintainer training will be provided to prospective customers. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in support of the H-1 Light Attack Helicopter Program Office (PMA-276) will hold an industry day on 24 January for parties interested in this upgrade work.

Having entered service with the USMC in 1986, the AH-1W is a highly capable variant of the Vietnam War-era AH-1 Cobra that is still in global service with countries such as Bahrain, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey. The surplus SuperCobras could either boost some of these existing fleets, or provide a new dedicated rotary-attack capability to a new customer.

Powered by twin General Electric T700-GE-401 engines, the AH-1W has a top speed of 147 kt, a range of 256 n miles (474 km), and a service ceiling of 18,700 ft (limited to 10,000 ft by oxygen requirements), all in a basic combat configuration.

With a maximum take-off weight of 6,697 kg, the platform is equipped with a nose-mounted 20 mm Gatling-gun with 750 rounds, and has four external wing stations that can fire 70 mm and 127 mm rockets, TOW and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and Sidearm anti-radiation missiles. It is equipped with a night targeting system/forward looking infrared radar that provides laser range-finding/designating and camera capabilities.

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