The Bell AH-1Z ‘Zulu’ Cobra for the US Marines has been cleared for full rate production by Pentagon Acquisitions head, Ashton Carter.
“This is the culmination of a lot of focused hard work by a lot of dedicated professionals,” said Col Harry Hewson, the Marines’ program manager for light and attack helicopter programs. “We spent the past two years executing a very detailed risk reduction program that tested every part of the weapons and fire control system on the AH-1Z. It performed very well in operational test last spring and I am confident that it will do as well in combat as the UH-1Y is doing right now in Afghanistan.”
The AH-1Z is a development of the AH-1W, and is one of two elements of the USMC’s H-1 upgrade program along with the UH-1Y, which is an enhancement of the UH-1N. Both aircraft have received new GE T700 engines, gearboxes and four blade main rotors, plus new sensors and avionics, and largely remanufactured airframes.
The AH-1Z, which at one point as a contender for the Australian Army’s Air 87 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program won by the Eurocopter Tiger, is expected to embark on its first deployment in 2011.