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US Marine Corps places $500M order for 29 AH-1Z helicopters


Bell Helicopter has been awarded a US$509 million contract for the manufacture and delivery of 29 Lot 15 production AH-1Z Build New aircraft in support of the US Marine Corps H-1 upgrade program, the US Department of Defense announced on  August 23.


US Marine Corps places 500M order for 29 H 1Z helicopters 001 A USMC AH-1Z Viper combat helicopter
(Credit: Bell Helicopter)


"In addition, this modification provides for long lead material and components for an additional seven Lot 16 aircraft.  Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (60 percent); and Amarillo, Texas (40 percent), and is expected to be completed in February 2021. (...) The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity," the Pentagon added.

The AH-1Z Cobra helicopters are part of the U.S. Marine Corps H-1 Upgrade Program. The program's goal is to replace AH-1W helicopters with new and remanufactured AH-1Zs which provide significant improvements in commonality, reliability and maintainability in addition to increased functionality. The program seeks to upgrade AH-1Ws to AH-1Zs, and UH-1Ns to UH-1Ys. The H-1 Upgrade Program offers 84 percent commonality of parts between the AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters. 

A total of 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Z helicopters are anticipated.

The AH-1Z Viper, also called "Zulu Cobra", is a twin-engine attack helicopter. Based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, the Viper features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system.

The helicopter can carry a payload of 2,600 kg, can fly as fast as 411 km/h, has a range of 685 km, and can fly as high as 6,000 meters. Its two redesigned wing stubs are longer, with each adding a wing-tip station for a missile such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Each wing has two other stations for 2.75-inch (70 mm) Hydra 70 rocket pods, or AGM-114 Hellfire quad missile launchers.