US Forest Service bids farewell to the Vietnam War-era AH-1 Firewatch Cobra

US Forest Service bids farewell to the Vietnam War-era AH-1 Firewatch Cobra

By Dario Leone
Oct 22 2021
Share this article

The US Forest Service said goodbye on Oct. 16, 2021 to their Vietnam war-era AH-1 Firewatch Cobra helicopters as an aerial attack platform.

The US Forest Service said goodbye on Oct. 16, 2021 to their Vietnam war-era AH-1 Firewatch Cobra helicopters.

The Forest Service said in a press release:

‘This past Saturday, the last remaining USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest (Region 5) Firewatch Cobra Program Viet Nam War-era helicopter took its final flight as we transition to a new era of aerial supervision utilizing modern helicopters and implement modern technologies like fixed-wing aircraft to service a larger landscape… Additionally, Region 5 has stood up an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Program to reduce risk and hazards to firefighters both in the air and on the ground.

‘The roles previously served by the two Cobra helicopters will be performed by a combination of three modern platforms: new helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and UAS. There is no reduction in firefighting surveillance or operational capabilities with the transition, local communities and wildland firefighters will be better served by the advancements in modern technology.

‘The two Forest Service-owned AH109 helicopters were repurposed Vietnam War-era, US Army attack helicopters for fire aviation, aerial supervision, and intelligence work. They served the Forest Service for nineteen years and reached their maximum lifespan after flying approximately 7,600 flight hours with the Cobra program.

‘“The Forest Service thanks all the pilots, mechanics, aerial supervisors, and program managers that made the Cobra program a success,” said Robert Baird, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for Region 5. “The next generation of equipment will continue this critical mission of public safety and protection.”’

In 1996, the US Army retired 25 of its Cobra helicopters, which are able to reach speeds of 160 mph. The US Forest Service eagerly accepted the hand- me-downs and converted the helicopters into Firewatch Cobras refitting them with an arsenal of high-tech gadgets. The Cobras didn’t extinguish fires by themselves. Their main purpose was to relay information to ground crews about the direction and strength of a blaze and to help larger planes make more accurate water or fire-retardant drops.

The Firewatch’s infrared thermal imager could detect the heat of a wildfire even through thick smoke. Its low-light and color cameras could pick up fine resolution images of the fire, and then its transmission equipment could send those images—in real time—to firefighting crews up to 30 miles away. Also, the Cobra could direct larger water haulers by providing precise GPS coordinates.

Photo credit: Akradecki Own work via Wikipedia

Share this article

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.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this article

Share this article
Share this article

Always up to date! News and offers delivered directly to you!

Get the best aviation news, stories and features from The Aviation Geek Club in our newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Error: Contact form not found.

Share this article
Back to top
My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate. In addition, this site installs Google Analytics in version 4 (GA4) with anonymous data transmission via proxy. By giving your consent, the data will be sent anonymously, thus protecting your privacy. We and our selected ad partners can store and/or access information on your device, such as cookies, unique identifiers, browsing data. You can always choose the specific purposes related to profiling by accessing the advertising preferences panel, and you can always withdraw your consent at any time by clicking on "Manage consent" at the bottom of the page.

List of some possible advertising permissions:

You can consult: our list of advertising partners, the Cookie Policy and the Privacy Policy.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices