During his speech at the 120th Anniversary of the Philippine Navy last May 22, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he sent his National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to Jordan to facilitate the negotiations and the release of two AH-1 Cobra helicopters.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana later added in an interview that two Philippine Air Force Pilots were sent to Jordan and they reported that the helicopters for transfer were in “good condition”.
The Pilots will also undergo training before the helicopters are brought over to the Philippines. No additional details about the transfer were released as of this writing, so for now I am just going to work with whatever information is available at the moment.
’The Cobra Helicopter’
First, just a short history about the AH-1 Cobra, it is the first ever purpose-built helicopter gunship to enter military service. Its first production version, the AH-1G, entered the United States (US) Army service in 1966, and saw combat during the Vietnam War the following year in 1967.
Jordan bought twenty four of the AH-1S Cobra helicopters in 1985, then received another nine second hand, former US Army AH-1F units in 2000-2001, boosting their inventory to thirty three aircraft.
However, in 2010 Jordan transferred sixteen of their Cobras to Pakistan, but then they replenished their stock when they received sixteen refurbished Cobra helicopters from Israel in 2014 or 2015. Israel initially bought AH-1G and AH-1S helicopters, but most of these were reportedly later updated to the AH-1F version.
The defense publication Jane’s though estimated that Jordan’s fleet of Cobra helicopters have gone down to twenty seven units after some were lost to attrition. Of these, approximately three were transferred to Kenya in 2017 while two will now be transferred to the Philippines.
’Oldie but Goodie’
The design of the Cobra helicopter will be more than 50 years old this year, and depending on which aircraft we get, they will either be second hand (if we get from the Cobras originally bought by Jordan) or even third hand (if we get them from the former US or Israeli Cobras) units. Also, the AH-1 Cobra is the “Mother of All Service Attack Helicopters” as it is the very first one to reach military service and go into full production.
However, despite the age of its design or whatever “hand” we will get, I think these aircraft could still offer good service to our Air Force because for one, we have never bought a true purpose built attack helicopter before. The helicopters we are using now for Ground Support are more like either light attack helicopters or armed versions of commercial helicopters.
Second, a number of countries are still using these aircraft up to now, including Jordan. In fact, Jordan just refurbished and modernized twelve of their Cobra helicopters to use new Aviation Electronics (Avionics), Weapons, Countermeasures, etc.
’Characteristics and Performance’
As of right now we don’t know what version we will be getting, or whether these will be refurbished and/or modernized. If so, we don’t know to what extent the refurbishing/modernizing will be. But for the purposes of this blog, I will assume that we will be getting the AH-1F because it is the last operational version used by the US Army and most countries have upgraded their Cobras to that standard.
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