PATUXENT RIVER, Md., March 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps has given its newest attack aircraft, the AH-1Z Cobra from Bell Helicopter, initial operational capability status.
"Getting the AH-1Z to IOC has been a huge achievement for the entire team," said Col. Harry Hewson, program manager for U.S. Marine Corps Light and Attack Helicopters. "Now we get to put the Zulu in the hands of the Marines and prove that it is indeed the most capable marinized attack helicopter in the world."
As part of the service's H-1 Upgrades Program, the AH-1Z replaces the AH-1W and will serve a primary role in assault support, offensive air support and air reconnaissance. The Cobras will also play a supporting role in anti-air warfare, electronic warfare and control of aircraft and missiles.
The new Cobras feature 10,000 flight-hour airframes, a new four-bladed rotor system with semi-automatic blade fold of the new composite rotor blades, new performance matched transmissions, a new four-bladed tail rotor and drive system, upgraded landing gear, and pylon structural modifications.
The Cobra also incorporates modernized, fully integrated cockpits/avionics that will reduce operator work load while improving situational awareness and safety.
The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, in announcing IOC status, said the Marines plans to remanufacture 131 AH-1W helicopters into AH-1Z aircraft and build 58 new AH-1Zs. The projected inventory for the AH-1Z is 189 helicopters.
Full operational capability is expected to be achieved in 2020. That status is defined as when all AH-1Z maintenance and repair support, test equipment and spares are in place to support active component force primary aircraft authorization.
AH-1Z Cobras were first delivered in 2007 by Bell. The Department of Defense authorized the Cobra for full-rate production in November 2010.
The first deployment of the AH-1Z is scheduled for later this year with a Marine Expeditionary Unit.