Huey Cobra Gunships is the latest title from Osprey Publishing. The book starts where it should, with a brief introduction that traces the Cobra’s design and development of the first true helicopter gunship, which entered into service in Vietnam in the 1960’s. The chapters that follow focus primarily on the developments and variants of the Cobra gunship and includes some truly gorgeous photos, and a 2 page color cut-away of a AH-1W that includes a key map of a break down of the sections, weapon and parts of the gunship.
Though the book has only 48 pages, the author Chris Bishop really puts you in touch with the many variants and developments of the Cobra. The book also has a great collection of over 40 photographs, most in color with text explaining the Cobra’s differences and variants. There’s also 8 pages of well printed color plates illustrated by Jim Laurier, and a two page commentary which covers the many schemes and calls out the FS (Federal Standard) color code numbers, a great reference for modelers.
During the war in Vietnam a lot of helicopters were armed, but they were vulnerable. With this in mind Bell decided to build an attack helicopter based on its successful Huey. Because of the urgent need of a heavily armed chopper in Vietnam, Bell offered a new version of attack helicopter, the 209 model Huey Cobra as an interim gunship.
“Snake” as it’s referred to for it’s fast, slender and lethal look, was the very first purpose designed gunship helicopter to see combat. The first model, the AH-1G was fitted with Miniguns and the M-129 grenade launcher, with 300 round of ammunition, and powered by a 1400 hp single engine. In September of 1967 the new AH-1G Cobras were deployed overseas for their immediate use in the Vietnam War. They were used to escort transport helicopters, and provided fire support for the ground troops.
After the war in Vietnam the Cobra was again pressed into combat in the 1983 invasion of Grenada, and in support of Marines Multinational Forces in Lebanon. Over the years several modifications were carried out, the most advanced was the single engine AH-1S Cobra attack helicopter. It’s main change was the ability to carry TOW missiles in its role as a tank killer, but it still retained it’s original concept for it’s role in direct fire support, armored escort and reconnaissance capabilities.
The US Army had to reorganize its helicopter fleet and phased out the Cobra in 1999 and to be completed by 2001. They were to be replaced by a combination of the AH-64 Apaches and OH-58 Kiowa Warriors. Today the Marines carry the Cobra in their aviation fleet, they to used the attack helicopter in Vietnam. The Marines acquired 38 AH-1G’s from the Army and by 1968 the Corps looked to order their own version of the Cobra which lead the development of the AH-1J. By the early 80’s the Corps wanted a fully navalized helicopter to replace it’s aging airframes and were looking to acquire the AH-64 Apache rather than another Cobra update, and in 1981 Congress refused their order and the Marines were forced to contact Bell for future developments.
The Marines Corps attack helicopter of today is the AH-1W “Whisky” Cobra. It’s primary mission is a armed tactical helicopter capable of close air support, low-altitude and high speed flight, and multiple weapons fire support. The AH-1W retains it’s basic characteristic look, a front pilot controlling the weapons systems while the rear pilot flying the aircraft.
During the Gulf War, both the Army and Marines committed Cobras to the cause, a total of 231 aircrafts. Today the Marine Corps still lead the Whiskey Cobra into battle, and in 2002 five Cobras from the HMM-165 took part in “Operation Anaconda” and their latest missions coming early in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq during ’Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This and plenty more can be found through out this 48 page book. The book covers the Cobras combat history and the many changes it developed during it’s service with the Army and Marine Corps, along with a short but a very informative run down of it’s foreign users.
Of the many helicopter books I own, I have to say that this book is one of the most informative. I highly recommend this book to all helicopter enthusiasts from novice to experts for it’s history, rich photography, and a great addition to any library.
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Joe Szczygielski takes a look at New Vanguard Vol. 125, which traces the development of that archetypal gunship, the Bell Huey Cobra - designed for combat in Vietnam and still an important weapons system in the C21st.
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