This week Bell redelivered the 37th and last AH-1W “Whiskey” Cobra light attack helicopter to be remanufactured to the new AH-1Z Viper, or “Zulu” configuration. From now on, all AH-1Z production will be completely new-build aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps has a program of record covering 189 AH-1Zs, and already has two squadrons converted from the AH-1W. A third is due to complete its conversion by the end of this year.
Bell has developed the AH-1Z to complement the UH-1Y Venom (“Yankee”) that significantly updates the Twin Huey design to replace the UH-1N. There is 85 percent commonality of maintenance-intensive parts between the two aircraft. As there was a more pressing need to replace the UH-1Ns in Marine service, early production has favored the utility helicopter. Eighty-nine of the required total of 160 UH-Ys had been delivered as of mid-February, allowing the UH-1N to be retired this year when the last reservist units begin conversion to the “Yankee”. However, it will not be until 2018 that the final UH-1Y is delivered, with the last AH-1Z scheduled for a 2022 hand-over.