U.S. MARINE CORPS
An AH-1Z Viper supports a counterpiracy training mission near Southern California’s San Clemente Island Sept. 7. The attack
helicopter is with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced), the aviation combat element for the 11th Marine
Expeditionary Unit. The unit embarked the amphibious assault ship Makin Island and amphibious transport dock New Orleans
in San Diego to begin its second seagoing exercise since becoming a complete Marine Air Ground Task Force in May.
price does not include government-furnished equipment, which amounts to approximately one-third more.
After an initial MEU deployment, the UH-1Y has
been deployed to Afghanistan since November 2009 in
company with AH-1W “Whiskey” gunships, and with
West Coast MEUs. The AH-1Z reached initial operational capability on Feb. 25, 2011.
On the 11th MEU deployment, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y
“did everything we were expecting them to do,” Hewson
said. “They never went ashore in combat type of role, but
they did plenty of exercises around the Pacific and
Middle East area. The systems on the Zulu and the
Yankee did everything we expected them to do, particularly the [Top Owl] Helmet Sight System [on both helicopter types] and the [AAQ- 30] Target Sight System on
the Zulu really improved the capabilities of the Marines
to get eyes on targets. They did some anti-piracy type
work around the Indian Ocean. The aircraft had very
high levels of readiness throughout the entire deployment. The feedback has been nothing but positive.
“The Zulu [and] Yankee, they’re very closely matched
in speed and range, which is great,” he said. “The opera-
ting concept for the helicopter squadron now is to tag
team one Yankee and one Zulu, or maybe one Yankee
and two Zulus, depending on the mission, to go out and
work together. Just the nature of how the aircraft are set
up makes them very complementary. The Yankee can do
initial scouting [and] some forward air control-type
work and then bring the Zulu for the heavy punch with
The AH-1Z provides either twice the range or twice
the payload of the AH-1W, but the level of integration
of systems and the amount of tactical information pre-
sented to the pilots is an even more important upgrade.