Bell AH-1 Cobra
Operational History

By June 1967, the first AH-1G HueyCobras 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 HueyCobra became the AH-1G. The AH-1 was initially considered a variant of the H-1 line, resulting in the G series letter.

Bell built 1,116 AH-1Gs for the US Army between 1967 and 1973, and the Cobras chalked up over a million operational hours in Vietnam.

The AH-1 Cobras were in use by the Army during the Tet offensive in 1968 and through the end of the Vietnam War. Huey Cobras provided fire support for ground forces, escorted transport helicopters and other roles. 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.

Huey Cobras supported U.S. Marine operations during 1983 invasion of Grenada.

During the Gulf War in 1990-91, the Cobras and SeaCobras deployed in a support role. A total of 78 Marine SeaCobras flew 1,273 sorties with no combat losses. Three AH-1s were lost in accidents during fighting and afterwards. Marine AH-1Ws destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personal carriers and vehicles, and two anti-aircraft artillery sites during the 100-hour ground campaign.

Cobra helicopter gunships were also used widely by the Israeli Air Force in the 1982 Lebanon War to destroy Syrian armor and fortification. IAF Cobras destroyed dozens of Syrian armored fighting vehicles, including many of the modern Soviet T-72 main battle tanks.

The Pakistan Army has also used the AH-1 as its primary gunship helicopter during the mid-1970s tribal uprising in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, where donated Iranian AH-1J were used against tribal insurgents.[citation needed] The recent insurgencies in the Waziristan regions has seen Pakistani AH-1s seeing action against Taliban & Al Qaeda fighters and their tribal allies, as well as operations against insurgents in another more recent Baluch tribal uprising recently led by armed Bugti and Marri tribesmen under the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and the Balochistan Liberation Army since the mid-2000s.

AH-1 Cobras continue to operate with the US military, by the US Marine Corps notably in the ongoing conflict in Iraq. The US Army phased out the AH-1 during the 1990s and retired the AH-1 from active service in March 1999. 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 Israeli Air Force also operates the Cobra as the "Tzefa" , Hebrew for Viper, with highly favorable reviews.

Iranian AH-1J SeaCobras participated in air combat with Iraqi Mi-24s on several separate occasions during the Iran-Iraq War. The results of these engagements are disputed, in a document titled "AH-1W Air Combat Maneuver Training -- Why It Must Be Reinstated" in 1992 by Major R. M. Brady, it is cited that "Iranian AH-1Js engaged Iraqi MI-8 Hip and MI-24 Hind helicopters. Unclassified sources report that the Iranian AH-1 pilots achieved a 10:1 kill ratio over the Iraqi helicopter pilots during these engagements (1:5). Additionally, Iranian AH-1 and Iraqi fixed wing aircraft engagements also occurred." Others claim that in the entire eight-year conflict, ten Iranian AH-1Js were lost in combat, compared to six Iraqi Mi-24. The skirmishes are described as fairly evenly matched in another source. Iranian AH-1Js are still operating today and have undergone indigenous upgrade programs. In 1988, two Soviet MiG-23s shot down a pair of Iranian AH-1Js that had strayed into western Afghan airspace.

AH-1 Cobras continue to operate with the the U.S. Marine Corps. USMC Cobras were also used in operations throughout the 1990s. USMC Cobras have also served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the ongoing conflict in Iraq. While new replacement aircraft were considered as an alternative to major upgrades of the AH-1 fleet, Marine Corps studies showed that an upgrade was the most affordable, most supportable and most effective solution for the Marine Corps light attack helicopter mission.

In 2003, the US Forest Service acquired 25 retired AH-1Fs from the US Army. These have been designated Bell 209 and are being converted into Firewatch Cobras with infared and low light sensors and systems for real time fire monitoring. The Florida Department of Forestry has also acquired 3 AH-1Ps from US Army. These are called Bell 209 "Firesnakes" and are equipped to carry a water/fire retardant system.

Wikipedia: AH-1 Cobra