FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Feb. 6, 2020) -- Changing out the nose cone of a Cobra helicopter is only one of many behind-the-scenes tasks Air Defense Artillery Museum Director Jon Bernstein and Exhibits Specialist Zane Mohler have performed for the new wing of the U.S. Army Artillery Museum.Artillery Museum Director Gordon Blaker said the Aerial Rocket Artillery Association had their reunion here a year and a half ago, and that's when he became more aware of the role of aerial rocket artillery and its importance during the Vietnam War.So in late 2018 he decided to put a Cobra in the museum's new addition to tell the story.These first helicopter gunships were part of the Artillery branch and provided a significant amount of fire support during the war.Blaker knew it would be a challenge to move it in.
The chopper is 49 feet long, 13 feet tall, and 10 feet wide, and the plan is to mount it on a pylon so that it's high overhead, with only six inches of clearance from the ceiling.Though it's big and bulky, it's not as heavy as it looks. The aluminum craft weighs in at about 6,000 pounds."Any day I get to work on one of these, I'm happy. It's been an awesome project," said Bernstein, a Cobra historian.The Minnesota National Guard had Cobra 67-15654 on display outdoors for a very long time before transferring possession of the chopper to the Artillery Museum. They moved the modified AH-1S to Fort Sill, and it arrived here March 8, 2019."It had about 18 inches' worth of birds' nests in the engine compartment. And it was just beaten on. But it was all there, and as they say with houses, it had good bones," Bernstein said.Bernstein researched the helicopter when it came up on the de-accession list for the Army collection.
It turned out that this particular helicopter flew with A Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA) in Vietnam and Laos during Operation Lam Son 719/Jefferson Glen.It didn't fly with them for very long, only about three months, because it was badly damaged by a sapper attack on the 4-77 ARA airfield in March 1971 and sent to Corpus Christi, Texas, for a rebuild.
It had, however, flown with two other units in Vietnam for the two years prior, so it had almost three years of combat history."So it was definitely something we wanted to preserve, and the fact that it had aerial rocket artillery provenance was really the key," Bernstein said.Bernstein is excited by the fact there is video footage of this Cobra in Vietnam.The film shows the helicopter sitting at the airbase at Khe Sanh the morning after the March 1971 attack, before the Cobra had to be sent back to the States to be rebuilt."The way we got it was as it appeared in the late 1980s/early 1990s. What we're doing now is backdating it to how it appeared at Khe Sanh in 1971," he said.When the helo was rebuilt in the mid-1970s, the smooth, streamlined, aerodynamic nose of the AH-1G HueyCobra was replaced by one with a sensor turret that served as a sighting system for an anti-tank missile.NOSE JOB
As luck would have it, Atlanta native John Woodward is with an organization that has refurbished a few Cobras back to G-model standard and he happened to have an extra AH-1G nose, which he sent to the Artillery Museum.To reattach that nose, museum staffers had to modify the fuselage a little bit. When the mechanics who did the rebuild put in a missile system, a couple of internal bulkheads were added.Mohler and Bernstein had to narrow the bulkheads a little, put the nose on and then Bernstein riveted it on just before Fort Sill's winter break.Currently, Mohler is building four M-200 rocket pods to mount on two stub wings on the sides of the helicopter.Mohler said the project is about 50 percent done.
Eventually, they'll get around to repainting the insignia.of this air assault helicopter, which was once used to defend UH-1H Hueys from enemy fire as they were inserting troops into "hot" landing zones.COBRA STRIKES
Bernstein said the helicopter's weapons turret was up front under the chin. It would carry either a 7-foot 16-mm minigun and a 40-mm grenade launcher, or two of one or the other.The wings had four pylons, two on each wing. These carried an assortment of various rocket pods for the aerial rocket artillery mission. Because their main function was close air support using rockets, they normally carried four 19-shot rocket pods for a total of 76 rockets.There were a number of different types of rockets. The two most commonly used were the 10-pound high explosive and the 17-pound high explosive rockets.There were also flechette rockets, an anti-personnel weapon containing 1,200 steel nails.Aerial rocket artillery Soldiers also had smoke rockets and CS tear gas rockets."You could also carry minigun pods under the wings, which would be another minigun like the one in the nose turret," Bernstein said.In late 1969 a version of the 20-mm Vulcan cannon was mounted onto the left wing.This modification gave the Cobra a bit more standoff distance against anti-aircraft guns," Bernstein explained. This particular Cobra would not have had one, though.Additional key individuals who contributed to the project include Clovis Jones of the Aerial Rocket Artillery Association, who transported the minigun (Gatling gun) and grenade launcher from the Army Museum collection at Anniston, Alabama.; Bob Mitchell, curator of the Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama.; John Rogers, a museum volunteer who drove to Georgia to fetch the Cobra nose and to Alabama to fetch other key parts, and Mohler, who's doing all the work.