An AH-1Z Viper helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fires an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile at a maritime target during a live fire exercisel while operating in the South China Sea.. During the exercise, the attack helicopters took off from San Antonio-class dock landing ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) in order to protect the amphibious task force from a simulated maritime threat. The America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st MEU team, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
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 Bell Huey family, is also called “Zulu Cobra”, based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter.The AH-1Z completed sea-trial flight testing in May 2005. On 15 October 2005, the USMC, through the Naval Air Systems Command, accepted delivery of the first AH-1Z production helicopter to enter the fleet.
The Bell AH-1Z Viper 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. The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a short-range air-to-air missile which entered service with the US Navy in 1956 and subsequently was adopted by the US Air Force in 1964. The subsequent AIM-9M (“Mike”) were introduced in pairs with even numbers designating Navy versions which was rushed to the Persian Gulf area during Operation Desert Shield (1991) to address specific threats expected to be present.