Hawaii’s first three AH-1Z Vipers arrive aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Dec. 19, 2017. The arrival of the 4th generation attack helicopters enhances the capabilities and power projection of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and MCBH. (Photo by Sgt. Alex Kouns)
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii —
U.S. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367) received three upgraded AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters at Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Dec. 19, 2017.
The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the arsenal of HMLA-367.
“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”
The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors were another important aspect of the upgrade. All of the upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.
“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”
Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”
The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.
“The new Zulu’s incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better, and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”
Marines like Ortega are essential to keeping HMLA-367 at the peak of their readiness during the transition, Myette said.
“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”
Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded UH-1Z’s.
“Times are changing, and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed, and the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”