PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps' AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter has been approved by the Department of Defense for full rate production.
The decision follows completion of operational testing last summer, when the AH-1Z was determined to be operationally effective, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command said in a news release.
"Getting the Zulu into full rate production is very important for the Marines and for our nation," said Rear Adm. Steve Eastburg, program executive officer for Air, Assault and Special Mission Programs. "Both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z deliver superb combat effectiveness to the Marine warfighter.
"We continue to build in production cost efficiencies to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the most for every dollar spent."
The AH-1Z Cobra, built by Bell, is part of the Marine Corps' H-1 Upgrade Program to replace AH-1W helicopters with new and remanufactured AH-1Z aircraft, which provide significantly greater performance.
A total of 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Z helicopters are anticipated, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2021.
The AH-1Z is expected to achieve initial operating capability and embark on its first deployment in 2011.