Bell AH-1 Cobra

Cobra air

A Cobra in flight over Vietnam, 1969.

Following the monumental success of the UH-1 “Huey,” Bell Helicopter looked once more to reinvent the helicopter. The Huey was an admirable servicecraft which could take on a variety of roles, but with the rise of air mobility on the battlefields of East Asia, Bell recognized a need for something the world had never seen before: a dedicated helicopter gunship. While the Huey was limitedly effective when retrofitted to act as a gunship, it became clear that the craft was too fragile and far too vulnerable to small arms to provide fire support in a dedicated role. In response, Bell created the AH-1 “Huey Cobra,” which featured twin miniguns, a 20mm cannon, four hardpoints for wing-mounted rocket pods, a carbon-fiber reinforced cockpit, and the capacity for anti-tank TOW missiles. These additions and innovations, as well as its sleek, conservative profile, guaranteed that the Cobra would be far more resilient—and far more deadly—than its Huey brethren. Adopted at war’s height in 1967, 1,081 Cobras would fly in the most famous battles of the war, including the Tet Offensive and Bien Hoa.

[1] Vietnam Helicopter Museum. “AH-1F Modernized ‘Cobra’ Helicopter, ‘Virginia Rose II,’” last modified July  11, 2016.