How would you define a combat helicopter? There are many different types of helicopters, both commercial and military models. However, the AH-1 Cobra stands out. In the mid sixties, the AH-1 (short for Attack Helicopter) was designed as the first ever full-blooded combat helicopter. Contrary to the US army’s usual habit of naming it after a native Indian tribe, the Bell was given the name “Cobra”. The helicopter' s threatening composure as well as its aggressive appearance may have been a factor for the naming.
The name became so popular amongst pilots and engineers that it became official in no time. This is why many of us are familiar with the Cobra, which is named after the queen of the snakes – Nomen est Omen.
One completely unprecedented feature made the Cobra so special: the tandem cockpit. The pilot’s seat was slightly raised so that the pilot and the rifleman were able to take over each other’s tasks. Today, many combat helicopters are based on the edgy and narrow design of the AH-1, which gives the Cobra its relatively modern look.
Initially, nobody was able to predict how successful the Cobra would be. In 1962, Bell Helicopter Inc. introduced a mock up model to the US military, which didn’t convince the authorities. Sure of what they were doing, the company continued developing off their own bat. Three years later, in 1965, the Bell AH-1 was ready for its maiden flight. However, the Cobra’s success is not only based on its technical excellence – coincidentally, the AH-56 program initiated by Lockheed, one of the main competitors, was put on hold due to technical problems, and paved the way for the Cobra’s success.
The success of the AH-1 reached its peak in the late sixties and the early seventies when it was used as aerial escort for trucks carrying gear and soldiers during the Vietnam War – a task the Cobra was perfectly suited for as jets were too fast and armed cargo helicopters were not only too bulky but also had less firepower than the Cobra.
In contrast to the Russian equivalent, the Mi-28N and the Ka-52, the Cobra is faster and more agile. With its double turbine manufactured by General Electric, each of them with 1,626 HP, it was able to reach a top speed of 300km/h. The demilitarized version owned by the Flying Bulls can hit top speeds of more than 350km/h with its Lycoming Turbine and 1800 HP and usually travels at around 300 km/h.
Power is money: registered under N11FX, the Cobra swallows 400 liter per hour. Real queens just aren’t humble.