AH-1J Sea Cobra
The Marines also operated armed Hueys in Vietnam. The USMC desired a twin engine AH-1G, based on a desire for improved safety and redundancy for over-water operation, which would become a hallmark of all subsequent USMC AH-1 types. The AH-1J "Sea Cobra" was developed and the USMC ordered this version of the Cobra in May 1968. Featuring the Pratt and Whitney Twinpac T400 engine (two 900-hp turboshaft engines coupled together) giving an overall increase in installed power, the AH-1J Sea Cobra included a new nose turret gun, with the three barrel XM197 20mm cannon, as well as other improvements. While development and production of the first 49 ordered were under way, the Marines obtained 38 AH-1Gs from the Army.
The Marines depended on attack helicopters to provide close-in fire support coordination in serial and ground escort operations. Such support was required during amphibious ship-to-shore movements and subsequent shore operations within the objective area. As a result the AH-1 was designed for the following tasks:
- Armed escort for helicopters carrying personnel and cargo
- Landing zone fire suppression support
- Visual armed reconnaissance
- Target marking and direction for high-performance attack aircraft and naval gunfire
- Convoy escort and fire suppression for ground units
- Operations from air capable ships
- Point target attack of threatening armor
- Self-defense and protection of helicopters carrying personnel and cargo from threatening air-to-air weapon-equipped helicopters
After initial training of Marines by the Army, Marine Huey Cobras became operational in April 1969 with VMO-2 in Vietnam. In December 1969, the AH-1Gs were transferred to HML-367. After flight tests beginning that same month and subsequent BIS trials, the first AH-1Js joined them in February 1971, entering combat the following month. AH-1Js, including those of HMA-369, participated in Southeast Asia operations until final withdrawal and continued as the Marine's attack helicopter afterwards, a total of 67 being delivered. The Marine AH-1Gs became the reserve helicopter attack squadron's aircraft.
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