Posted by John McHale
FORT WORTH, Texas 28 March 2011. The AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter -- used by the U.S. Marine Corps -- obtained initial operating capability designation. The platform is manufactured by Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas.
The U.S. Marine Corps is replacing the two-bladed AH-1W with the AH-1Z, which features a new, four-bladed composite rotor system, performance-matched transmission, four-bladed tail rotor, two additional wing stores stations on larger stub wings, upgraded landing gear and a fully integrated glass cockpit. The AH-1Z will see a 120 percent increase mission radius with attack payload over the AH-1W, Bell officials say.
As part of the H-1 Upgrade Program, the AH-1Z replaces the currently fielded AH-1W. The AH-1Z will serve a primary role in assault support, offensive air support, and air reconnaissance. The Zulu will play a supporting role in anti-air warfare, electronic warfare, and control of aircraft and missiles.
"Getting the AH-1Z to IOC has been a huge achievement for the entire team," says Col. Harry Hewson, program manager for U.S. Marine Corps Light and Attack Helicopters. "Now we get to put the Zulu in the hands of the Marines and prove that it is indeed the most capable marinized attack helicopter in the world."
The H-1 Upgrade Program offers 84 percent commonality of major component parts between the AH-1Z and UH-1Y utility helicopters. This commonality reduces lifecycle and training costs and decreases the expeditionary logistics footprint for both aircraft.
The new Zulus feature 10,000 flight-hour airframes, a new four-bladed rotor system with semi-automatic blade fold of the new composite rotor blades, new performance matched transmissions, a new four-bladed tail rotor and drive system, upgraded landing gear, and pylon structural modifications. This will help the new Zulu to achieve a 39 percent increase in HOGE useful load over its predecessor. The Zulu also incorporates modernized, fully integrated cockpits/avionics that will reduce operator work load while improving situational awareness while being able to carry 32 percent more fuel.
The AH-1Z is equipped with two General Electric T700-GE-401 series engines and greatly increased lift capability and stores capacity, giving it a significantly greater ordnance payload for future growth potential. The primary weapon system is the Hellfire missile. It is fully shipboard compatible, and capable of operating from prepared or unprepared landing sites, day or night.
"The expeditionary agility that the Yankee/Zulu package brings to the Marine Air/Ground Task Force is exactly what the Marine Corps needs as we continue to fight two wars and conduct numerous other engagements in every clime and place," Hewson says.
Posted by John McHale