For the US Marine Corps, the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter will be the primary air support for quite some time. And although the US Marines received the last ordered machine in November 2022, there are still several decades of its operation ahead. And for the AH-1, the first flight occurred in 1965, and Vietnam was a baptism of fire – a more than bright career.
And due to the fact that the American Marine Corps is known for trying to squeeze the maximum out of any weapon, their experience is more than interesting from the point of view of the effectiveness of the decisions made.
The Drive spoke with the commander of Marine Aircraft Group 39, Col. Nathan Marvel, who detailed how the Marines will really use all the obvious and non-obvious capabilities of the AH-1Z Viper.
In particular, due to the fact that the decade of AH-1Z operation is ahead, it will undergo gradual modernization. At the first stage, an updated system will be installed to counter missiles with a thermal homing warhead and the AN/APR-39 system, which warns of the threat of fire by radar-guided missiles.
Also at the final stage is the integration of the AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missiles, which already have a range of up to 40 km and the ability to be guided by third-party targeting thanks to a common information exchange system.
But integrating these and other capabilities is impossible without a significant increase in the power supply system of the AH-1Z Viper, for which Bell is working to double this indicator immediately under the SIEPU program. The first helicopters will receive this system already in 2023.
In addition, as part of this update, more powerful computers will be installed on the machines, which will be able to process much more information received over the networks.
And after the successful integration of AIM-9X Block II, the issue of integration of the much longer-range AIM-120 AMRAAM, the latest versions of which have a range of up to 180 km, will be open.
Of course, this will not mean that the AH-1Z Viper will be equipped with its powerful radar to carry out launches independently. But it is quite possible to launch the AIM-120 with third-party targeting, for example, with the F-35, turning the attack helicopter simply into a mobile air launcher.
And now, the entire plan of the US Marine Corps is clearly visible, which turns the AH-1Z Viper simply into a universal machine platform, which is able to perform the maximum possible volume of tasks, while remaining as easy as possible to maintain a helicopter.