The US Marine Corps has taken delivery of its 189th and final AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter from Bell Textron Inc. in a ceremony at the company’s Amarillo Assembly Center.
The delivery also marked the completion of the H-1 Program of Record (POR), as the company wrapped up deliveries of the 160 UH-1Y Venom in 2018. With the Viper delivery, the USMC has now received a total of 349 H-1 aircraft.
The AH-1Z Viper replaced the two-bladed AH-1W Super Cobra, introducing a new, four-bladed composite rotor system, performance-matched transmission, four-bladed tail rotor, upgraded landing gear and a fully integrated glass cockpit. The UH-1Y Venom replaced the UH-1N Huey.
“The first production lot of US Marine Corps H-1s was ordered in 1962, and they changed the way Marines fight today,” said Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 vice president and program director. “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.”
Bell has been producing H-1s for the US military since 1959. Bell originally designed the H-1 for the US Army with the iconic “Huey.” In 1966 Bell created the AH-1 Cobra as the first dedicated gunship. In 1970, the UH-1N brought twin engine capabilities to more than 28 countries, and in 1984 the AH-1W provided the US Marine Corps increased attack helicopter capability.
According to the company, as 85 percent common platforms, the Viper and Venom are the only two aircraft that share so much commonality, providing the Marines with logistical agility and reduced operating costs. 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.
“H-1s are key to the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan,” said Col. Vasillios Pappas, Light/Attack Helicopters program manager (PMA-276). “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.”
The AH-1Z provides rotary wing close air support, anti-armor, anti-air, armed escort, armed/visual reconnaissance and fire support coordination capabilities under day/night and adverse weather conditions for the USMC.
As a multi-role utility helicopter, the UH-1Y is equipped with a range of weapons and mission support configurations to also perform close air support missions, along with combat assault support, search and rescue/causality evacuation, armed escort/reconnaissance, command and control, and special operation support. UH-1Y is the USMC’s premier utility platform.
The H-1 production line is still active in support of foreign military sales to approved US allies. 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.