The USMC fleet of AH-1Z VIPER and UH-1Y VENOM helicopters, designed by Bell, has surpassed the 400,000 flight hour mark, the company announced on 3 June. The two marques have been deployed around the world in a bewildering spectrum of military operations since 2010.
“Reaching the 400,000 hour milestone represents the collective efforts of the men and women dedicated to upholding the H-1’s legacy of success,” commented Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 VP and Program Director. “The AH-1Z and UH-1Y program exemplifies the vital cooperation between industry and program to ensure we maintain an overwhelming competitive edge against future enemies.”
The USMC programme of record is for 349 H-1 aircraft, split between VIPERs and VENOMs,, with production continuing through 2022 for the USMC and then beyond that for foreign military partners. The aircraft are expected to be in service for the USMC through the 2040s, and Bell supports operations with continuous upgrades to maintain reliability, survivability and lethality on an evolving battlefield.
The aircraft modernisation programme includes modifications such as Link-16 integration as part of a defined roadmap of planned improvements, designed to ensure the platform maintains its technological edge and combat capability throughout its service life.
“Reaching this milestone is a culmination of thousands of hours of work by pilots, maintainers, engineers, test teams, and industry partners. It is a true team effort,” observed Col Vasilios Pappas, Program Manager at PMA-276. “The H-1s have defended warfighters for six decades, and with the integration of new capabilities, H-1s will continue to support warfighters for decades to come.”
The VIPER’s dedicated attack ability offers weapons for ground, maritime, or aviation targets, combined with great standoff range. The VENOM’s design as a versatile utility platform can perform any battlefield function, from resupply and troop insertion to close air support, among others. Together, the aircraft share a unique differentiator in military aviation. The platforms possess 85% commonality in major systems and parts, enabling the USMC to quickly share critical components and reduce the logistical footprint and training required to operate the aircraft in austere environments.
VIPER and VENOM are designed for sea- and land-based operations, and are marinised from manufacture, providing protection from the elements and enhancing reliability and availability in diverse environments, including desert, maritime, snow and tropical conditions.