The Bell AH-1W SuperCobra is a twin engine attack helicopter based on the Bell AH-1 from the US Army. It is currently the United States Marine Corps flagship helicopter, but it will be replaced by the upgraded and more advanced AH-1Z Viper derivative.
Two main variants of the SuperCobra are existing, the AH-1T Improved SeaCobra, and the AH-1W SuperCobra.
The AH-1W SuperCobra is more agile than it´s predecessor, because of the more powerful T700 engines. And it is also able to fly fully armed over great distances deeply into the battlefield. It has advanced avionics, and the ability to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder Air-to-Air-missiles. So that the SuperCobra is able to attack other helicopters and even enemy aircraft. But usually the USMC don't equip the SuperCobra with Sidewinder missiles, as this limits the space for additional air-to-ground armament
It provides armor only at the cockpit and the blades, which are able to withstand bullets up to 23 mm. The remaining parts of the helicopter aren't armored, what lowering survivability of the SuperCobra. During the Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, two AH-1T were shot down due to this weakness.
The BGM-71 TOW missiles were supplemented by the laser guided AGM-114 Hellfire missile. But because the expensive Hellfire missiles are only useful against armored targets, the cheap TOW missiles are more effective in missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Development of the AH-1W began in 1981, when Bell was awarded a $4.1 million contract to qualify use of the T700-GE-401 in the AH-1T, following refusal by Congress to release funds for procurement of AH-64s for the USMC. In addition to the T700s, the AH-1T+ prototype (161022) was fitted with exhaust suppressors and cheek fairings for the TOW electronics, leading to production examples being designated AH-1W. The USMC Acquired 179 AH-1Ws, plus a single TAH-1W trainer, supplemented by 43 AH-1Ts upgraded to AH-1W standard.
Turkey received 10 AH-1Ws from the USMC allocation, and Taiwan procured 42 AH-1Ws - presumably new builds - between 1993 and 1997.[N 1]