Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program
November 16/18: Bahrain The Royal Bahraini Air Force will receive several attack helicopters as part of a US Foreign Military Sale. The US Department of State approved the deal for 12 AH-1Z Vipers, worth an estimated $912 million, in April this year. Bahrain expects delivery of the helicopters from the second half of 2022 onwards. The Bell AH-1Z Viper is a modern version of the AH-1 Cobra, the first ever attack helicopter. It is one of the most powerful, capable and advanced helicopters, flying today. Bahrain’s fleet will be armed with 14 AGM-114 Hellfires, and 56 Advance Precision Kill Weapon System II. The Viper’s manufacturer Bell, alongside Textron and General Electric have been listed as principal contractors on the sale. Bell CEO Mitch Snyder said the “most advanced helicopter in production” would “help protect the country for decades to come”.
The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.
Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.
The H-1 Helicopters
UH-1Y & AH-1Z: Performance Issues
The H-1 Upgrade Program
H-1 Upgrade: Force Size & Structure Shifts
H-1 Program: Budgets & Industrial Partners
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2015 – 2018
FY 2005 – 2006
FY 1999 – 2004
Additional Readings & Sources
Helicopters & Ancillaries
News & Views
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