Nigeria cleared to buy AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters but armed with rockets instead of Hellfire missiles

Bell delivers final USMC AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter. The H-1 production line is still active in support of foreign military sales to US allies.

By Dario Leone
Nov 21 2022
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Completing the AH-1Z and UH-1Y deliveries to the US Marine Corps adds one more chapter to the legacy of the H-1 platform.

In a ceremony at the Amarillo Assembly Center, Bell celebrated the delivery of the 189th AH-1Z Viper to the US Marine Corps (USMC), completing the Program of Record (POR) for the latest version of the storied H-1 platform. Bell completed the UH-1Y POR of 160 aircraft in 2018 bringing the combined H-1 POR to 349 aircraft.

“The first production lot of US Marine Corps H-1s was ordered in 1962, and they changed the way Marines fight today,” said Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 vice president and program director, in a Bell News Release. “Completing the AH-1Z and UH-1Y deliveries to the US Marine Corps adds one more chapter to the legacy of the H-1 platform.”

Since 1956, more than 16,000 aircraft have been produced as part of the H-1 family of helicopters, popularly known as the Huey and Cobra. Originating from a 1955 US Army contract for a medical evacuation helicopter (the iconic “Huey”), the first Navy/Marine Corps Iroquois variant, the UH-1E, was first procured in 1964.

In 1966 Bell created the AH-1 Cobra as the first dedicated gunship. In 1970, the Bell UH-1N brought twin engine capabilities to more than 28 countries, and in 1984 the AH-1W provided the USMC increased attack helicopter capability.

The current generation AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom are the most agile, mobile, and survivable combination of aircraft used by the Department of Defense. The 85% common platforms are the only two aircraft that share so much commonality, providing the Marines with logistical agility and reduced operating costs. The AH-1Z achieved initial operating capacity in February 2011 and the UH-1Y achieved initial operating capacity in August 2008. The first combined Viper/Venom deployment with a Marine Expeditionary Unit occurred in 2009.

“H-1s are key to the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan,” said Col. Vasillios Pappas, Light/Attack Helicopters program manager (PMA-276). “With the US program of record now complete, the Marines have the flexibility to manage and deploy the helicopters based on current and future mission requirements as established at the start of the program.”

The H-1 production line is still active in support of foreign military sales to approved US allies. Bell continues to produce AH-1Z Vipers for the Kingdom of Bahrain and will manufacture eight UH-1Ys and four AH-1Zs for the Czech Republic in 2023.

Since the first delivery of the AH-1Zs and UH-1Ys to the USMC, the H-1 mixed fleet has accumulated more than 450,000 flight hours through a full spectrum of military operations.

The USMC replaced the AH-1W Super Cobra with the AH-1Z Viper and the UH-1N Huey with the UH-1Y Venom.

The AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter provides rotary wing close air support, anti-armor, anti-air, armed escort, armed/visual reconnaissance and fire support coordination capabilities under day/night and adverse weather conditions for the USMC.

The UH-1Y Venom multi-role utility helicopter is equipped with a wide range of weapons and mission support configurations to also perform close air support missions, along with combat assault support, search and rescue/causality evacuation, armed escort/reconnaissance, command and control, and special operation support. UH-1Y Venom is the USMC’s premier utility platform.

UH-1Y and AH-1Z

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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