Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History

RAAF A16 Bell Model 209 AH-1G Cobra

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A16 - Bell AH-1 Cobra (Not taken up)
Image via Brendan Cowan


Bell AH-1 Cobra Gallery

  On March 10, 1970, the Minister for Defence announced a comprehensive helicopter acquisition program for the RAAF and the Australian Army which was to include 84 Light Observation Helicopters (LOH), 42 Utility Helicopters (UH) and 11 Helicopter Gunships.

With the withdrawal of Australian forces from Vietnam the LOH purchase was pared back to 75 Kiowa (subsequently reduced to 56) and the UH order to 14 UH-1H Iroquois (7 in 1970 for 5 Sqn, 2 replacements in 1971 for 9 Sqn in Vietnam and a final 5 delivered in March 1974) plus 12 Ch-47C Chinook Medium Lift Helicopters.

The 11 helicopter gunships were intended to improve firepower and battlefield surveillance capabilities for the Australian Army and a budget of$13.2m was set asside for acquisition. A final decision on the type of helicopter to be selected was planned to be made in April 1970. The two contenders were both from the Bell stable in the form of the AH-1 Cobra and the the armed UH-1 Iroquois (similar to the Bushranger configured Hueys that 9 Sqn had operated successfully in Vietnam).

In December 1970, the AH-1G Huey Cobra was selected at a program cost of $12.4m and the A16 serial prefix was allocated to the type for RAAF service. It is probable that these aircraft would have been diverted from the U.S. Army production batch serialled 71-20983 to 71-21052 delivered in 1973.

A new helicopter unit (8 Sqn RAAF) was to be formed but it had not been decided whether the Cobras would equip 8 Sqn at Townsville or be shared with 9 Sqn at Amberley.

As it turned out, the RAAF AH-1G order was cancelled on October 7, 1971. The Army tried to reverse the cancellation in support of the RAAF given the experience gained in Vietnam. However, it was not to be and the RAAF and Army soldiered on with the UH-1H Bushranger until a dedicated type was selected decades later in the form of the Eurocopter Tiger ARH.

Around 1992, there was an rumour circulating around RAAF Amberley that there had been some Cobras spotted sporting RAAF roundels. These may have actually been visiting U.S. aircraft that had been "zapped" with kangaroos!


The Author of this page is Brendan Cowan.

Source: RAAF News, Australian Aviation May 1994 (pg.23).

Emails: The Phantom, John Bennett, Martin Edwards, Brendan Cowan

Updated 18 July 2013


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