Introduced in the late 1960’s as a replacement for the UH-1 gunship, the Cobra was designed as a troop escort, antipersonnel, anti-tank attack helicopter. The Cobra was used extensively in Vietnam, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bell AH-1 Cobra (Model 209) is a two-bladed, single engine attack helicopter. It shares the common engine, transmission, and rotor system with the older UH-1 Iroquois. The Huey is the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter production for the US military. The Cobra is also referred to as the HueyCobra or Snake. The United States Forest Service refers to their program of firefighting Cobras as the Firewatch Cobra.
In January of 1965, Bell invested $1 million to proceed with a new design for a mission-specific attack helicopter using proven systems from the UH-1 Huey program such as the T53 engine and the 540 rotor system augmented with a Stability Control Augmentation System (SCAS). On 3 September 1965, Bell rolled out its Model 209 prototype, and four days later it made its maiden flight after only eight months from the start of the project. In April 1966, the Cobra won an evaluation against the other rival helicopters and the Army signed the first production contract for 110 aircraft.
The Cobra went on to a distinguished service career with the Army which flew them through the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. They were replaced by the AH-64 Apache. The Marines continue to operate a twin-engine version of the Cobra as their primary attack helicopter.
The example on display is a rare ‘T’ model (Training Version) which is equipped with flight controls in the front gunner’s seat. Of the AH-1P models produced, only 100 were produced with the composite rotor, flat plate glass cockpit, and improved cockpit layout for nape-of-earth flight. It is one of only a handful in civilian ownership and is on loan to the LSFM from the Vietnam War Flight Museum. The aircraft is airworthy.