The Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, designed and produced by the American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter. Being one of the latest members of the prolific Bell Huey family, it is also called "Zulu Cobra", based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter.
The AH-1Z was developed during the 1990s and 2000s as a part of the H-1 upgrade program on behalf of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It is essentially a modernisation of the service's existing AH-1Ws, and was originally intended to be a rebuild program before subsequent orders were made for new-build helicopters instead. The AH-1Z and Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter share a common tailboom, engines, rotor system, drivetrain, avionics architecture, software, controls and displays for over 84% identical components. Furthermore, it features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system amongst other improvements. On 8 December 2000, the AH-1Z conducted its maiden flight; low-rate initial production was launched in October 2003.
On 30 September 2010, the USMC declared that the AH-1Z had attained combat readiness; it fully replaced the preceding AH-1W Super Cobra during October 2020. The type forms a key element of the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) taskforce which support all phases of USMC expeditionary operations. Since its introduction, the USMC has pursued various upgrades, such as installing Link 16 datalink and outfitting it with the AGM-179A Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM). Additionally, numerous export customers have been sought for the AH-1Z, it has regularly competed with the Boeing AH-64 Apache for orders. The first export customer was the Royal Bahraini Air Force, the Czech Air Force has also ordered the type. At one point, Pakistan was set to operate its own AH-1Zs, but deliveries were blocked due to political factors.
AH-1Z Viper CHARACTERISTICS
Crew: Two: pilot and co-pilot/gunner (CPG)
Length: 58 ft 3 in (17.75 m)
Height: 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m)
Empty weight: 12,300 lb (5,579 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 18,500 lb (8,391 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft, 1,800 shp (1,300 kW) each
Main rotor diameter: 48 ft (15 m)
Main rotor area: 1,808 sq ft (168.0 m2) 4-bladed main and tail rotors
Cruise speed: 160 kn (180 mph, 300 km/h)
Never exceed speed: 222 kn (255 mph, 411 km/h)
Range: 370 nmi (430 mi, 690 km)
Combat range: 125 nmi (144 mi, 232 km) with 2,500 lb (1,100 kg) payload
Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m) +
Rate of climb: 2,790 ft/min (14.2 m/s)
1 × 20 mm (0.787 in) M197 three-barreled rotary cannon in the A/A49E-7 turret (750 round ammo capacity)
Hardpoints: 6 total pylon stations on stub wings with a capacity of 5,764 lb (2,615 kg) maximum, with provisions to carry combinations of:
2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra 70 (unguided) or APKWS II (guided) rockets (Mounted in LAU-68C/A (7 shot) or LAU-61D/A (19 shot) launchers; up to 76 unguided or 38 guided rockets total)
AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles – one mounted on each wing tip station (two total)
AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles – Up to 16 missiles mounted in four 4-round M299 missile launchers, two on each wing
Being one of the latest members of the prolific Bell Huey family, it is also called "Zulu Cobra"