An upgraded version of the US-designed Bell AH-1 SuperCobra helicopter gunship is reportedly now being put through its paces in Iran.
Indigenously-developed, it's being flight-tested out in the field, according to local media reports. From here onwards, it's expected that the SuperCobra upgrade will participate in wargames alongside other Iranian Army assets.
Speaking to the FARS news agency, Iranian Army representative Brigadier General Kioumars Heidari described it as an "advanced generation of the [Bell] Model 209", equipped with a complement of ‘different types of home-made calibre guns, rockets and missiles".
He added: "All the phases of designing and manufacturing of the chopper have been done inside the country and the helicopter enjoys some capabilities which make it preferable to [Boeing AH-64] Apache Choppers".
Iranian Army SuperCobras
The AH-1 SuperCobra is the Islamic Republic of Iran Army's key combat helicopter, with some 200 estimated to have been delivered prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Of these, it's believed that around 50 Iranian Army SuperCobras remain in service.
Iran has now spent some twenty years developing and manufacturing indigenous aircraft, armoured vehicles, tanks and missiles. All the while, it's remained adamant that such weapons aren't intended to be used aggressively but are there to defend against the military actions of other nations. A similar explanation applies to its perceived production of nuclear weapons, too: while it's spent years enriching uranium, Iran still says the resultant fuel is designed for peaceful, non-aggressive applications.
Iranian Helicopter Upgrades
Very little has yet been published concerning the newly-upgraded Iranian SuperCobras, but it's thought the modernisation programme could involve the locally-based HESA (Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company) organisation. A little more is known of previous Iranian helicopter upgrade projects, including the ‘Toufan' programme which integrated into the basic SuperCobra design new cockpit features.
The Bell AH-1 SuperCobra series is based on the original AH-1 Cobra, which dates back to the mid-1960s. Besides Iran, the type also equips Taiwan, Turkey, South Korea and the US. Capable of 175 miles per hour, it boasts the capability to launch AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Hydra 70 rockets.
AH-1 SuperCobra image copyright US Marines. Used solely for representational purposes