AH-1Z Viper [REVIEW + SPECS] | Defence Database
Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter
Posted by: Andrei Dcs

Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter developed for the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

AH-1Z Viper is based on the AH-1W SuperCobra and is the latest model in the Cobra family of attack helicopters.

Author: Gunnery Sgt. Rome Lazarus
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USMC launched the H-1 upgrade program to develop new helicopters that will replace the aging AH-1W SuperCobras and UH-1N Twin Hueys.

The result was the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and the UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter.

The two helicopters have a common design with 60% common components to reduce operating costs thus being easier for the USMC to maintain and operate the fleet.

Manufactured by the American company Bell Helicopter, tHe AH-1Z Viper was developed from the AH-1 SuperCobra.

The newest member of the Cobra series of attack helicopters, the AH-1Z Viper performed its first flight on 8 December 2000 and was introduced in operational service with the US Marine Corps on 30 September 2010.

The serial production started in 2000, with 62 helicopters built to this day.

As the SuperCobra will be progressively retired from active service, the Viper will become the main attack helicopter of the US Marines.

A newly built AH-1Z Viper has a price per unit of US$31 million. Older SuperCobras can also be converted into Vipers, with a unit price of US$27 million.

The Bell AH-1Z Viper has a crew of two (2) consisting of the pilot and a co-pilot/gunner (CPG).

It has a length of 58 ft 3 in (17.8 m) and a height of 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m).

Powered by two General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshafts each generating a power of 1,800 shp (1,340 kW) each, the AH-1Z has a main rotor with four blades as well as a four-bladed tail rotor.

The main rotor has a diameter of 48 ft (14.6 m) and a disc area of 1,808 ft2 (168.0 m2).

The AH-1Z Viper has an empty weight of 12,300 lb (5,580 kg) and a maximum takeoff weight of 18,500 lb (8,390 kg).

The useful load is 5,764 lb (2,620 kg) and the total capacity is 6,661 lb (3,021 kg).

Regarding the performance, the maximum speed that AH-1Z is able to reach in a dive is 222 knots (255 mph, 411 km/h) while the cruise speed is 160 kt (184 mph, 296 km/h).

With a maximum range of 370 nmi (426 mi, 685 km), the AH-1Z has a combat radius of 125 nmi (144 mi, 231 km) with a 2,500 lb (1,130 kg) payload.

It has a rate of climb of 2,790 ft/min (14.2 m/s) with a maximum service ceiling of 20,000+ ft (6,000+ m).

Regarding the armament, the AH-1Z has a A/A49E-7 turret with 750 round ammo capacity. The turret is equipped with a 20 mm (0.787 in) M197 three-barreled rotary cannon.

On the two stub wings, there are up to six hardpoints to mount a wide range of rockets and missiles including air-to-air missiles.

The AH-1Z Viper can carry up to a total of 76 unguided or 28 guided rockets mounted in LAU-68C/A (7 shot) or LAU-61D/A (19 shot) launchers. It can use 2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra 70 or APKWS II rockets.

With advanced avionics, the AH-1Z Viper is capable to also use the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile, being able to carry two of such missiles, one mounted on each of the wingtip stations.

Regarding the air-to-surface missiles, Viper can carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles mounted in four 4-round M272 missile launchers, two on each wing.

AH-1Z Viper Current Users / Operators

- The United States Marine Corps - USMC is the largest operator of AH-1Z currently having 90 units in service from a total of 189 planned.

- Bahrain - the Royal Bahraini Air Force placed an order for 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.

- Czech Republic - the Czech Republic placed an order of four (4) AH-1Z Vipers, part of a larger order that also includes eight (8) UH-1Y Venoms that will enter service with the Czech Air Force.

AH-1Z Viper Possible / Future operators

- Poland - Poland wants to buy a total of 32 attack helicopters as part of its Kruk program. AH-1Z Viper might be a contracandidate along with the AH-64 Apache and the Italian Leonardo Helicopters AW249.

- Romania - Romania is in discussions with Bell for the purchase of a total of 24 AH-1Z Vipers along with 21 UH-1Y Venoms.

Part of these helicopters might be locally assembled at the IAR plant in Brasov, Romania.

If this large acquisition will take place, these helicopters will enter service with the Romanian Land Forces. This will be the first time that Romanian Army will operate helicopters since all the Romanian helicopter fleet is part of the Romanian Air Force (RoAF).

AH-1Z Viper - General Data and Specifications:
Type Attack helicopter
Place of Origin United States of America
Service Period and Status 30 September 2010 - present
Manufacturer and Builders Bell Helicopter
Program & Unit Cost Unit cost:
US$27 million
US$31 million (new built)
Production Period 2000–present
Number Built 61
Related Projects Bell AH-1 SuperCobra
First Flight 8 December 2000
Mass / Weight Empty weight:
12,300 lb / 5,580 kg

Useful load:
5,764 lb / 2,620 kg

Max. takeoff weight:
18,500 lb / 8,390 kg
Length 58 ft 3 in / 17.8 m
Height 14 ft 4 in / 4.37 m
crew 2: pilot, co-pilot/gunner (CPG)
Payload 6,661 lb / 3,021 kg
Powerplant 2 × General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft, 1,800 shp (1,340 kW) each
Rotor Systems 4 blades on main rotor, 4 blades on tail rotor
Rotor Diameter 48 ft / 14.6 m
Disc Area 1,808 ft² / 168.0 m²
Speed Never exceed speed:
222 knots / 255 mph / 411 km/h in a dive

Cruise speed:
160 kt / 184 mph / 296 km/h
Operational Range Range:
370 nmi / 426 mi / 685 km

Combat radius:
125 nmi / 144 mi / 231 km with 2,500 lb (1,130 kg) payload
Service Ceiling 20,000+ ft / 6,000+ m
Rate of Climb 2,790 ft/min / 14.2 m/s