Leave it to the marines to get the most from hand me downs and a tiny budget. Having the Cobra and Huey share components saves them a ton of money. Money they can use to buy air to air missiles baby!
Servicing the AH-1Z Viper’s hingeless and bearingless rigid rotor system aboard the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec 2nd Class Alan Gragg
The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has evolved their Bell AH-1W SuperCobra (highly capable twin engine Cobra) significantly into the Z-variant with the new designation AH-1Z Viper. Similarly with their advancement of the Huey to the Bell UH-1Y Venom the Vipers are more than an improvement as they have a four rotor blade system, as opposed to the previous twin rotor blade, of previous models — as well as much more power. The USMC has also greatly simplified aviation logistics with regard to Vipers and Venoms since they share tail booms, engines (2 x GE T700-GE-401C turboshaft at 1800 shp/1340kW), drivetrains as well as avionics — there is commonality greater than 80% which should also keep costs in check as well as easing logistic duties. The four blade rotor system no longer has hinges or bearings (only 25% of the number of original parts hence 75% less things to fail) which revolutionizes the helicopter’s performance envelope. The Viper’s wing stubs are longer and have added wingtip stations for mounting air-to-air missiles as well as Longbow radar. The Marines have an extremely potent hunter aircraft in the Viper with a combat radius of 125 miles, a cruise speed of 184 mph and a weapons load of a chin turret 20mm rotary cannon and six pylons which can mount a mix of Hydra 70 or APKWS II rockets in 7 or 19 shot pods, up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles in 4-round pods as well as wingtip mounted AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
As an infantry support, anti-armor attack and anti-helicopter aircraft the Viper is formidable and can be also used to counter jet attack air aircraft in the proper circumstances such as in canyon country where the helicopter can use terrain masking to await in ambush.
USMC AH-1Z Viper departing the flight deck of the USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and note the wingtip mounted missile.