Marine Corps Bell AH-1Z Viper arrive at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Nov. 9, 2018. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 is the first squadron on the east coast to receive the new aircraft. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 (HMLA-167) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. Known as the “Warriors”, they are based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina and fall under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW).
The AH-1Z first flew on 8 December 2000. Bell delivered three prototype aircraft to the United States Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in July 2002, for the flight test phase of the program. Low-rate initial production began in October 2003, with deliveries to run through 2018. In September 2008, the Navy requested an additional 46 airframes for the Marine Corps, bringing the total number ordered to 226. In 2010, the Marine Corps planned to order 189 AH-1Zs with 58 of them being new airframes, with deliveries to continue until 2022. On 10 December 2010, the Department of the Navy approved the AH-1Z for full-rate production.
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is an American twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, that was developed for the United States Marine Corps as part of the H-1 upgrade program. The AH-1Z features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system. The AH-1Z, one of the latest members of the prolific Huey family, is also called “Zulu Cobra”, based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter.
The AH-1Z incorporates new rotor technology with upgraded military avionics, weapons systems, and electro-optical sensors in an integrated weapons platform. It has improved survivability and can find targets at longer ranges and attack them with precision weapons. The AH-1Z’s new bearingless, hingeless rotor system has 75% fewer parts than that of four-bladed articulated systems. The blades are made of composites, which have an increased ballistic survivability, and there is a semiautomatic folding system for storage aboard amphibious assault ships. Its two redesigned wing stubs are longer, with each adding a wingtip station for a missile such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Each wing has two other stations for 2.75-inch (70 mm) Hydra 70 rocket pods, or AGM-114 Hellfire quad missile launchers. The AN/APG-78 Longbow fire control radar can also be mounted on a wingtip station.(U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Danielle Krenzel.)