Last Legacy Super Cobra Enters US Marine Corps Maintenance Program

By Dan Parsons | August 6, 2018
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The last AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter to undergo the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP) at FRCSW Site Camp Pendleton awaits further processing outside of the hangar. The aircraft was inducted July 18 from Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 775 (HMLA-775), and is scheduled to complete the IMP by the end of September and return to the squadron. (U.S. Navy photo)

The last legacy AH-1W Super Cobra entered the Navy’s integrated maintenance program at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in mid-July.

Continuing the attack aircraft’s legacy snake nomenclature, W-model Super Cobras are being replaced with the AH-1Z Viper


“The technology is more advanced in the Z than the W,” said Cary Mocanu, who manages Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) at Camp Pendleton. “It has better engines, and the airframe is more rigid and stronger. The W is primarily sheet metal where the Z is more cast aluminum parts.”

Manufactured by Bell, the H-1W Cobra twin-engine attack helicopter has been flown by Marines for the past 32 years in ground support and special operations missions. Bell also builds the UH-1Y Venom, or Super Huey. The Marine Corps is nearly finished replacing its legacy Hueys with the four-bladed, twin-engine UH-1Y, which is 80 percent common with the AH-1Z.

The integrated management program, or IMP, is a two-phase overhaul process designed to improve airframe integrity. Phase one involves dissembling and evaluating the aircraft every 50 days, Mocanu said.

During phase-one disassembly, the rotor blades, intermediate and tail gear boxes, panels, engines and transmission are removed for evaluation. Fuel cells and crew seats are stripped off and the oil, fuel and hydraulic system hoses are changed.

Every 78 days, during the second phase, the aircraft are disassembled similarly to the first phase and then sandblasted and repainted.

Damages outside of the IMP scope are reported to the squadron and are ordinarily repaired as in-service repairs (ISR), of which there are about 140 per year in the H-1W fleet, Mocanu says.

“A lot of those aircraft had the same discrepancies such as the transmission pylon channels, stub wing lugs, 214 bulkhead repairs, and landing gear supports,” he said. “Many of these issues were the result of hard landings or fatigue to the airframe.”

The H-1W IMP is scheduled for completion by the end of September when the aircraft will be returned to its squadron: Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 775, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.

Meanwhile, the artisans of Site Camp Pendleton will remain busy continuing IMP procedures to the H-1 Z and the UH-1Y Super Huey.

“We have plenty of work. We have Y and Zs coming up and should be putting out 40-50 aircraft a year within the next couple of years,” Mocanu said.

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