Bell delivered the 189th AH-1Z Viper helicopter to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) during a ceremony at Amarillo Assembly Center, Texas, US, on November 2, 2022.
The event, which marked the completion of the Program of Record (POR), saw the final delivery of the world’s oldest attack helicopter to the service.
Developed in the late 1990s, the AH-1Z Viper is the latest development of the AH-1 Cobra, which is in turn based on the H-1 Iroquis transport helicopter.
The AH-1 was the first mass-produced attack helicopter in the world, and one of the most widespread.
The first AH-1 was delivered to the US Army in 1967 and saw deployment in Vietnam later the same year. Although envisioned as an interim solution before the more capable Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne becomes available, the AH-1 remained in production for decades, outliving many of its would-be successors.
It has been deployed during scores of international conflicts ever since and was exported to numerous foreign customers such as Israel, Turkey, Japan and Pakistan.
In the 1990s the AH-1 was gradually phased out by the US Army in favor of the Boeing AH-64 Apache, but remained in use with the USMC, which operated AH-1 SuperCobra (retired in 2020) and AH-1Z Viper variants.
Only foreign customers
A large part of the USMC’s AH-1Z fleet was put in storage following budget cuts in 2020, leading to the service operating only 91 helicopters of this type by the start of 2022, according to the FlightGlobal World Air Forces Index.
However, the USMC continued to receive new aircraft, leading to the final delivery on November 2.
While it is most likely the last AH-1 to be delivered to the US military, the type remains in production due to foreign orders.
In 2018, the Royal Bahraini Air Force ordered 12 AH-1Zs to be delivered later in 2022.
In March 2022, Czechia ordered 12 Vipers as a replacement for the Soviet-era Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters that were transferred to Ukraine.
Other countries, including Nigeria, Romania and Morocco, have also reportedly expressed an interest in buying the aircraft during recent years.