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Watch: Cobra attack helicopters pound targets with missiles and machine guns

U.S. Marines conduct a live-fire close air support exercise with AH-1 Cobra helicopters firing missiles and machine guns at targets on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California. (Gung Ho Vids/YouTube)
April 14, 2016

Bell’s AH-1 Cobra attack chopper has been the backbone of the United States Army’s helicopter fleet for more than 50 years. A tried and true war machine, the Cobra has seen action from Vietnam to the Gulf War and beyond. Although the aircraft is now being phased out for the even more deadly AH-64 Apache, the invaluable chopper is still used by NATO forces and the Marines.

In a video posted to YouTube, Marine trainees conduct a live-fire close air support exercise with the AH-1 Cobra helicopters. The pilots fire off missiles and machine guns at targets at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California.

Check out the video below:

Originally introduced in the 1960s, the Cobra attack helicopter made its debut during the Tet offensive and would prove vital throughout the duration of the Vietnam War. By the mid-1970s, more than a thousand Cobras had been deployed and the choppers racked up more than a million collective operational hours of use.

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Following their success in Vietnam, the United States military deployed more than 200 Cobras for use in the Gulf War. During their six month tour, the fleet of choppers proved to be critical in providing support.

U.S. Marines conduct a live-fire close air support exercise with AH-1 Cobra helicopters firing missiles and machine guns at targets on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California. (Gung Ho Vids/YouTube)

While much of the military has retired the AH-1 Cobra, the Marines still utilize the helicopter in a number of ways. In the video above, trainees can be seen firing off a number of different weapons the Cobra has at its disposal to destroy countless targets.

U.S. Marines conduct a live-fire close air support exercise with AH-1 Cobra helicopters firing missiles and machine guns at targets on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California. (Gung Ho Vids/YouTube)

The Cobra requires a two-man crew: one pilot, and one co-pilot/gunner. The highly trained men and women who fly these beasts have a number of armaments to choose from. The aircraft is equipped with a combination of multi-barrel miniguns and M129 grenade launchers.  In addition, the chopper can pack a dozen or more rockets and one more M18 minigun for good measure.

U.S. Marines conduct a live-fire close air support exercise with AH-1 Cobra helicopters firing missiles and machine guns at targets on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California. (Gung Ho Vids/YouTube)

Powered by a 1,100hp Lycoming T53 engine, the 6,000lb helicopter can reach speeds of more than 170mph as it cruises hundreds of miles in a single flight to its destination. Compared to other military aircraft, the Cobra was produced at a relatively inexpensive cost of around $11 million per unit.

More than a dozen nations, various international agencies, volunteer groups, and private companies still utilize the AH-1 Cobra.