Bell has delivered the 189th AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter to the U.S. Marine Corps, completing the program of record for the latest version of its H-1 platform and likely bringing production of its 63-year-old “Huey” family to an end for the U.S. forces. Bell delivered its last of 160 UH-1Y aircraft to the Marines in 2018.
However, H-1 production will remain open to support foreign military sales. Bell continues to produce AH-1Z Vipers for the Kingdom of Bahrain and will manufacture eight UH-1Ys and four AH-1Zs for the Czech Republic in 2023.
Bell has been producing its H-1 series rotorcraft for the U.S. military since 1959, beginning with deliveries to the U.S. Army. Over the ensuing decades, a variety of aircraft were spawned from the initial design, including the AH-1 Cobra gunship in 1966, the follow-on AH-1W in 1984, and the twin-engine UH-1N in 1970.
The current generation AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom share 85 percent commonality and became operational in 2011 and 2008, respectively. Since the first delivery of the latest two variants to the Marines, the mixed H-1 fleet has accumulated more than 450,000 flight hours. “H-1s are key to the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan,” said Col. Vasilios Pappas, light/attack helicopters program manager (PMA-276). “With the U.S. program of record now complete, the Marines have the flexibility to manage and deploy the helicopters based on current and future mission requirements as established at the start of the program.”