In a ceremony at the Amarillo Assembly Center, Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, celebrated the delivery of the 189th AH-1Z Viper to the U.S. Marine Corps, completing the Program of Record (POR) for the latest version of the storied H-1 platform. Bell completed the UH-1Y POR of 160 aircraft in 2018 bringing the combined H-1 POR to 349 aircraft. Bell has been producing H-1s for the U.S. military since 1959. Bell originally designed the H-1 for the U.S. Army with the iconic “Huey.” In 1966 Bell created the AH-1 Cobra as the first dedicated gunship. In 1970, the Bell UH-1N brought twin engine capabilities to more than 28 countries, and in 1984 the AH-1W provided the U.S. Marine Corps increased attack helicopter capability.
“H-1s are key to the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan. With the US program of record now complete, the Marines have the flexibility to manage and deploy the helicopters based on current and future mission requirements as established at the start of the program,” said Col. Vasillios Pappas, Light/Attack Helicopters program manager (PMA-276).
“The first production lot of US Marine Corps H-1s was ordered in 1962, and they changed the way Marines fight today. Completing the AH-1Z and UH-1Y deliveries to the US Marine Corps adds one more chapter to the legacy of the H-1 platform,” said Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 vice president and program director.
The current generation AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom are the most agile, mobile, and survivable combination of aircraft used by the Department of Defense. The AH-1Z and UH-1Y share a common tailboom, engines, rotor system, drivetrain, avionics architecture, software, controls and displays for over 84% identical components. Both aircraft use twin General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft outputting 1,800 shp (1,350 kW) each. Upgrades will also be made to the transmission (rated for 2,350 hp (1,750 kW)) and skid landing gear. The AH-1Z achieved initial operating capacity in February 2011 and the UH-1Y achieved initial operating capacity in August 2008. The first combined Viper/Venom deployment with a Marine Expeditionary Unit occurred in 2009.
The H-1 production line is still active in support of foreign military sales to approved U.S. allies. The stated mission of the H-1 upgrade program is to “resolve existing safety deficiencies, significantly improve operational capabilities, and reduce life-cycle costs. Bell continues to produce AH-1Z Vipers for the Kingdom of Bahrain and will manufacture eight UH-1Ys and four AH-1Zs for the Czech Republic in 2023. Since the first delivery of the AH-1Zs and UH-1Ys to the U.S. Marines, the H-1 mixed fleet has accumulated more than 450,000 flight hours through a full spectrum of military operations. Bell will continue to support the U.S. H-1s with lethality, survivability, and reliability upgrades through a long-term modernization plan that helps ensure the aircraft keep an overwhelming tactical advantage for generations.