AH-1Z Cobra

Well, finally. The Marines are getting ready to make the first deployment of AH-1Z Cobras…

I’ve talked about the problems with the Marines aviation procurement before.  And now, for just $29 million each, the Marines are buying a helicopter that is almost as capable as the AH-64 Apache that has been in service for over 20 years. Good job!

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7 thoughts on “AH-1Z Cobra”

  1. Well, you could put it another way had the USMC decided to buy the AH-64…

    “The Marine Corps has decided to buy an aircraft that is only slightly more capable than the AH-1Z, but has almost no common components, will require an entirely new supply system, pilot training pipeline, and cannot be embarked on an Amphib.”

  2. Had the USMC decided to buy the AH-64 they could have had it years ago.

    The AH-1J and then AH-1W did not jump into existance fully navalized. The USMC actually borrorwed some AH-1Gs from the Army until Bell could get the sea-going version made.

    If it was desired Hughes/McDonnel Douglas/Boeing could have made a sea-going 64 just like they made a sea-going UH-60.

    The Marines I’ve been around that flew our unit’s Apache’s had nothing but good things to say about it. Are there reasons the USMC went with the Z versus getting an entirely different airframe? Of course there are, but the point remains that they could have had what they just got with the AH-1Z years ago with an AH-64…if things had been done differently.

    1. The only thing that really had to be done differently is that senior leaders in the Marine Corps said, “You know, I don’t care if it was built for the Army; I like it and I think that it is exactly what we need.” I suspect that Seahawks/Blackhawks would have been a nice switch from Sea Knights, too….. I’m sure that there is some technical specs about amphib footprint, etc, but oh well.

    2. While some changes (notably to the rotor head) would have been needed, making a seagoing version would not have been too difficult.

      But NAVAIR, either alone, or with the connivance of the Marines, did a paper study of a Marine version, and porked it up to something that had very little commonality, and added entirely unrealistic options, such as surface search radar, and the ability to carry AGM-84 Harpoons. The goal, of course, was to kill any possibility of Apache procurement for the Marines.

  3. Frankly, there is only 1 weakness the Zulu has compared to the apache. If u put a M230 and were able to hold 1000-1150 rounds with a gyroscopic turret instead of the chin mount you’d have an aircraft almost 100% superior to the apache (seeing that u can extend the Zulu’s range) and if they put the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca rtm engines on the Zulu you’d have foreign customers throwing $ at u for the Zulu

    1. You can, and I have flown with extended range fuel tanks on an Apache. As currently configured in theater Apaches have about an hour more station time than a Cobra.

      I don’t know that much about a Z Model so I’m not aware if it has an IDM and BFT…if it doesn’t then it’s not even close to being the same as an Apache…not to mention the option of MMW radar and VUIT-2. That doesn’t make a AH-1Z horrible in fact there are more than a few things that would be nice to have on an Apache…but the fact remains that ’64s were fielded initially in ’86 and Longbows followed around ’97. The USMC for whatever reason decided they didn’t want Apaches somewhere down the line, just now they are getting an aircraft with a lot of the same capabilities in 2011. For what capabilities it has the AH-1Z isn’t THAT much better than the AH-64D.

      Is it good for the nation to have multiple helicopter manufactures? That is another argument and probably a valid one. But if one argues that the AH-1Z is worth what was spent rather than getting something that already existed on performance, you’d more than likely loose that argument.

  4. I would argue that the AH-1z is equal to the AH-64D Bloc III in most ways and superior in several. They both carry the same armament while the Zulu also carries the AIM-9x. The M197 20mm is as effective against all but highly armored targets at the same range as the M230 30mm, but with a higher rate of fire and reliability. In fact the gun systems illustrate the overall difference of approach of the two platforms. The M197 fires a high velocity round where as the M230 does its damage via a low velocity heavy caliber round. Like wise the Zulu while having a heavier empty weight is faster in to and cruise speed, has a higher hover out of ground effect, vertical climb rate, sideways flight speed, and is dramatically improved in maneuverability over that of the of Whiskey, which itself was a close second the to the Apache. It also carries more on board fuel. (412 gallons vs 375, though the Apache can carry as much as 500 gallons at but with only 300 rds of ammunition) In short the Marines tactics and missions profiles favor a smaller lighter faster maneuver focused platform for the CAS, ARECON, and Escort missions, where as the Army prefers the heavier Air Cavalry attack platform. Army tactics still see the AH-64 as more of a flying tank/ tank killer, than the more traditional CAS aircraft the Marines use. That’s ok the tactics and roles suite each service’s mission and purpose .

    The Zulu’s TSS features better medium wave optics over the Bloc III long wave MTADS, a more productive HOTAS cockpit, and having had a chance to fly in the Ah-64 over the years, the TOP OWL binocular systems is much more effective to use than the IHADS, scrapping the weight, complexity and expense of the the PNVS, for a system that is more intuitive to use. In terms of maintenance the Whiskey maintained much higher readiness numbers than the Longbow ever has and now the Zulu with its modular two stage systems with improve upon that. The Zulu’s avionics are more readily upgrade able, and both aircraft can utilize Milimetric Radar, and target data had off, So its a wash there.

    Where the Zulu still falls short is crew surviability. The seating and skids simpy can’t offer the crash protection the Apache does. The Zulu is not currently fitted with an IR jammer either. Conversely the Cobra has proven to be a hardy air frame able to withstand shocking amounts of battle damage and its small size makes it very hard to hit. The Zulu is still louder than the Apache so the the 64 might have the edge in stealth though neither were designed with limiting radar cross sections in mind. Add all that to the fact the the Zulu takes up less deck space, is easier to fly, with a shorter training route for pilots and crews are already familiar with the aircraft in maritime operations, plus the commonality of parts between the Yankee and we have a good weapons platform for the Marine Corps missions of CAS and escorting Uh-1,and M-22 operations.

    Is it better, for the money? Hmmm… I like that we have two companies manufacturing combat aircraft in the same space and spending private dollars to develop them. Is it as capable? Certainly! Is it less expensive? Slightly but what’s $5-8M per copy amongst friends. Stupid? Not at all, the Marines have a different mission and tactics than the Army, Navy or Air Force and have always required unique aircraft to accomplish it.

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