Quick Facts

Bell AH-1J SeaCobra

Close Support Helicopter


On loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps

Location: Flight Innovation Center, Main Exhibit Hall (Sentinels at Sea)

The Air Zoo's SeaCobra (serial number 26051, BuNo 159211), began its journey at U.S. Marine The Bell AH-1J SeaCobra is a member of the twin engine (U.S. Marine Corps version) Cobra family, which includes the AH-1T SeaCobra and AH-1W SuperCobra. Helicopters developed in use and significance during the Vietnam War (1955-1975), for rotary wing aviation lent itself to Southeast Asian battlefields. In time, the U.S. military recognized a need for armed helicopters to aid troops with close-range air support. In response, Bell Helicopter Company went to work on an armed helicopter. In the mid-1960s, Bell designed what they called an attack helicopter, or AH. The AH-1G featured a slender fuselage with its rear cockpit above and behind the gunner. Designers equipped the helicopter with rockets and machine guns tucked beneath its stub pylons. Bell named their new attack helicopter the Cobra and the U.S. Army put it into service in 1967.

The Cobra caught the U.S. Marine Corps' attention. They wanted a similar helicopter equipped with a 20 mm, multi-barrel M197 cannon for marine-based operations. Thus, Bell introduced the AH-1J SeaCobra. Designers placed minigun pods and TOW or Hellfire missiles beneath the stub wings. This made the SeaCobra a force to be reckoned with during the Vietnam War. In 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada (Caribbean), SeaCobras proved valuable in close-support and helicopter escort missions. The U.S. Army utilized Cobras in Operation Just Cause during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.

The Air Zoo's SeaCobra

The Air Zoo's SeaCobra (serial number 26051, BuNo 159211), began its journey at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA in 1970 as part of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369). Originally, our SeaCobra operated with markings SM and later, it took on markings MP/701. The National Museum of the Marine Corps loaned the SeaCobra to the Air Zoo in 1994.