The AH-1 SuperCobra is an attack helicopter developed and manufactured by the Bell company.
The SuperCobra is an upgraded version of the AH-1 Cobra. The Cobra was a helicopter created as an interim solution to the need for a specialized attack helicopter. That makes the SuperCobra, along with the Cobra, part of the Huey family of helicopters, since they share the same basic platform as the Bell UH-1, the iconic light transport helicopter which is now synonymous with the Vietnam War.
The SuperCobra first flew in 1969 and was introduced in 1971. Development began in the mid-1960s, with delivery of the first units taking place in 1967.
The SuperCobra exists primarily because the US Marines required more than the standard Cobra could provide. They needed a gunship that would carry more weight and operate in higher temperatures.
The original Cobra shares the proven rotor system, engine transmission and T53 turboshaft engine of the UH-1. The SuperCobra doubled the number of engines and the twin-engine nature of the SuperCobra is the defining feature that sets it apart from the Cobra. The engines themselves were upgraded to two GE T700-401 turboshafts. This additional power and reliability made the SuperCobra suited for overwater missions, something that would be quite risky in a single-engine machine.
Further upgrades were made to the transmission system,the tail boom was lengthened and numerous changes were made to the fire control system and weapon capabilities. In general the SuperCobra is significantly more “navalized” than the army-centric Cobra.
Notably the SuperCobra can carry TOW missiles and be armed with a 20mm gatling gun. Heavy armament for close-range combat.
More than 1300 units of SuperCobra were built over its lifespan. Production ran into the 1980s and the helicopter found its way into the Iranian, Chinese and Turkish armies, in addition to the US Marine Corps.
It remains in service today, but is set to be replaced by the AH-1Z Viper.