AH-1F Modernized “Cobra” Helicopter, “Virginia Rose II”


Vietnam AH-1G “Cobra” Helicopter

By June 1967, the first AH-1G “Huey Cobra” attack helicopters had been delivered by the Bell Helicopter company. Originally designated as UH-1H, the “A” for attack designation was soon adopted and when the improved UH-1D became the UH-1H, the Huey Cobra became the AH-1G Cobra or Snake. The AH-1 was initially considered a variant of the H-1 line, resulting in the G series letter.

On August 29, 1967 the Virginia Rose II was one of the first 12 AH-1G Cobra attack helicopters to be delivered in Vietnam to the New Equipment Training Team (NETT) at Bien Hoa Air Force Base. Six of these helicopters would be transferred to the 334th Assault Helicopter Company (the first armed helicopter company in the history of the U.S. Army, activated on 25 July 1962). The Virginia Rose II Cobra served with the 334th Armed Helicopter Company from September 1967 to March 1968 performing aerial assault and support missions. It then went on to serve with the 605 Transportation Company from April 1968 to July 1968.

The Virginia Rose II is documented as the first Cobra to fly in Vietnam, in front of General Westmoreland, commander of US forces in Vietnam, on September 4, 1967. It has also been attributed as having the first combat kill in Vietnam.

This helicopter was phased through the AH-1F Modernized Cobra program which converted 387 AH-1G Cobras. The AH-1F incorporates all Step 1 and 2 upgrades to the AH-1S. It also featured Step 3 upgrades: a head-up display, a laser rangefinder, an infrared jammer mounted above the engine exhaust, and an infrared suppressing engine exhaust system, and the M143 Air Data Subsystem (ADS). The AH-1F is also referred to as the “Modernized AH-1S”, “AH-1S Modernized Cobra”, or “AH-1S(MC)” prior to 1988

The AH-1S Modernized Cobra was redesignated as AH-1F Modernized Cobra, and could be identified by the air data sensor mounted above the right side of the canopy. The AH-1F Cobra was equipped with the Allied Signal Engines (ASE) T53-L-703 1800 shp turboshaft engine, gearbox, and transmission introduced to the Production AH-1S Cobra.


Standard Armament (AH-1G):

M28 Turret: 2 x 7.62mm (.308 caliber) Miniguns OR 2 x 40mm M129 grenade launcher or mix of both. (When one of each was mounted, the minigun was mounted on the right side of the turret, due to feeding problems.)

Optional Armament (AH-1G):

Four wingstub hardpoints for the carrying of 7-shot or 19-shot 2.75″ rocket pods, 7.62mm M18 Minigun pods OR XM35 Armament Subsystem providing a single M195 20 mm cannon on the port inboard pylon of the AH-1G. 950 rounds of ammunition were stored in boxes faired to the side of the aircraft. The system was primarily pilot controlled, but featured dual controls to be either pilot or gunner controlled. For this purpose, the pilot was provided with a M73 sight. Later support for TOW anti-tank missiles. Armament can also be mixed.
All aviators were officially issued a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver or a .38 Special Colt Police Positive. The double-action revolvers had a swing-out six round cylinder, but for safety reasons the chamber under the hammer was empty. The .38 Special had a full metal jacket bullet and was also provided with red-tipped tracer rounds for signaling. The cartridge provided poor knockdown power, penetration, limited firepower against automatic weapons, and it was slow to reload. For these reasons it was not popular with aviators and many sought more effective weapons.

Body Armor

Both the Pilot and Co-Pilot/Gunner positions were equipped with carbon fiber side panels and seats.
The small-arms protection aircrewmen armor that was introduced in 1966 was a vest with pockets containing composite laminated plates commonly called “chicken plates”. Improved versions were issued through the war and included pockets on the chest and back in which large additional plates could be inserted. The back plate was often not used owing to the weight, and even the chest plate was deleted


Two (2) Crew: one Pilot, one Co-Pilot/Gunner (CPG)

Missions and Loads

The Cobra was the first helicopter designed from inception with the specific mission being an attack aircraft. It dramatically changed the nature of the war in Vietnam by offering the Army, for the first time, its own powerful and highly accurate weapons platform for close-air-support missions. To accommodate the crew in such an aircraft, the cockpit was arranged so that the pilot sat directly behind and slightly above the front seat. From there, he could have sufficient visibility to maneuver the aircraft in almost any situation. The front seat, which had a slightly better view of the ground immediately to the front of the aircraft, was occupied by the gunner. He had a few of the control mechanisms available to the pilot, but was not a copilot in any conventional respect.


Bell Helicopter
Bell AH-1F Modernized Cobra
Attack Helicopter
First Year of Production
Production Total
1 x Allied Signal Engines (ASE) T53-L-703
Engine Rating
1,800 SHP
Main Rotor
2 Blade Semi-Rigid 44 Foot Diameter
Maximum Take Off Weight
9500 Lbs.
Empty Weight
5810 Lbs.
Never Exceed Speed
190 Knots (219 mph)
Maximum Cruise Speed
149 Knots (171 mph)
Maximum Range
319 nautical miles (357 statute miles)
Service Ceiling
11,400 feet
Rate of Climb
1,230 feet/minute
Fuselage length
44 ft. 5 in. (13.5 m)
Stub Wing span
10 ft. 4 in. (3.15 m)
Total Operating Length
53 ft. (16.2 m) with both rotors turning
13 ft. 6 in. (4.12 m)


Bell Model AH-1G “ Cobra” or “Snake”
s/n 66-15259
Served in Vietnam War during 1967-1968
Army units this aircraft deployed with in Vietnam:

Delivered to New Equipment Training Team (NETT) Bien Hoa Air Force Base Sep 1967
334th Armed Helicopter Company Sep ’67 – Mar ‘68
605 Transportation Company Apr ’68 – Jul ‘68
AH-1 Cobras were in use by the Army during the Tet offensive in 1968 and through to the end of the Vietnam War. Cobras provided fire support for ground forces, escorted transport helicopters and other roles, including aerial rocket artillery (ARA) battalions in the two Airmobile divisions. They also formed “hunter killer” teams by pairing with OH-6A scout helicopters, also known as a “Pink Team,” consisting of one OH-6 Cayuse or “Loach” (from an observation or “White” team) acting as spotter while the venerable Cobra or a UH-1B Hog (from an attack or “Red” team) did the killing.
A team featured one OH-6 flying slow and low to find enemy forces. If the OH-6 drew fire, the Cobra could strike at the then revealed enemy. On 12 September 1968, Capt. Ronald Fogleman was flying an F-100 Super Sabre when the aircraft was shot down and he ejected 200 miles north of Bien Hoa. Fogleman became the only pilot to be rescued by holding on to an Army AH-1G’s deployed gun-panel door. Bell built 1,116 AH-1Gs for the U.S. Army between 1967 and 1973, and the Cobras chalked up over a million operational hours in Vietnam; the number of Cobras in service peaked at 1,081. Out of nearly 1,110 AH-1s delivered from 1967 to 1973 approximately 300 were lost to combat and accidents during the war.

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