Bell AH-1S Cobra Helicopter

The first modern combat helicopter

In the early 1960s, the Bell Company invited U.S. Army officials to view a mock-up of a new combat helicopter. Dubbed the Iroquois Warrior, the idea of a sleek, front-back crew placement with heavy armament including a ball turret in the nose but utilizing the proven transmission and rotor system of the UH-A to hold down maintenance and other costs caught the Army’s attention. After three years of swapping proposals, Bell brought out the D-255 in March 1965. By November, the Army had the aircraft, rechristened the Cobra, in tests. By 1966, the Department of Defense let a full contract and in June the HueyCobra made its debut at the Paris Air Show and at Army bases across America. This helicopter would replace the B and C models of the UH-1 Huey.


Designated the Bell AH-1G HueyCobra, this machine used the same engines and transmissions as its counterpart, the multipurpose Huey. The Cobra’s fuselage was streamlined to achieve maximum speed and load armament. The crew sits in tandem with the pilot flying the chopper from the rear seat and the weapons specialist in the front. The aircraft can be flown from the front position. The AH-1G first flew on Sept. 7, 1965. Later in 1967 the first ships arrived in the Vietnam theater. One of the primary missions of the Cobra gunship was close ground support for troop deployment and rescues. The AH-1 still performs this mission almost thirty years after it was pressed into service. In all, 2,000 AH-1s were built in many variations including the Marine SeaCobra and the Army’s tank killer KingCobra.

The Arkansas Air Museum AH-1S was built in 1970. It was decommissioned at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, where it served with the Arkansas National Guard.