Israeli Air Force
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AH-1E serial 412 banks over for a tight turn.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)

Unit History

161 Squadron

(161 Tayeset "Ha'Koofroot Ha'Dromiet" - The Southern Cobra Squadron)
Role: Attack Helicopter

A batch of Vietnam era AH-1G Hueycobra helicopter gunships was delivered to Israel in the summer of 1975, and initial trials were conducted by the Flight Test Centre. The initial six AH-1Gs were returned to the USA for updating to AH-1S (Improved AH-1S) standard late 1977 - mid 1978. Modifications included a nose mounted sighting system and TOW missiles for the anti-armour role. These examples are often misreported as AH-1Qs, but this version lacks the uprated engine and sugar scoop IR exhaust seen on Israeli examples.

In April 1980 two combat helicopter squadrons were formed, each with fifteen MD500s (delivered from December 1979) and three of the updated AH-1S Hueycobras. The Southern Cobra Squadron is identified as 161 squadron, while the other unit was 160 sqn.

In 1981 the first of two batches of AH-1F (modernized AH-1S) examples were delivered to the unit, (initially 9 aircraft followed by 8 more). This subtype features a cylindrical exhaust, 'hot brick' IR jammer, wire cutters and a low speed sensor probe. The arrival of the second batch in 1985 allowed the MD500s to gathered into a single squadron designated 190 sqn. Around 1987 the original six AH-1 helicopters were again upgraded to the AH-1E (Up-gun AH-1S) standard, with flat plate canopy, and long nose gun.

These helicopters have seen extensive combat use in Lebanon, both during the 1982 invasion and subsequently against various guerrilla positions. The Defenders saw action in the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon, with several tank kills to their credit, but one aircraft was lost to a lucky shot from a Syrian tank late in that month. A further ten AH-1F were ordered in 1993.

Rear view of a pair of AH-1Es.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)
An AH-1E gets in some gunnery practice.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)

Air Bases:
Base Duration
Palmachim April 1980-Present

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
MD500/TOW15April 80 - 1985- 
AH-1G*3April 80 - Present- 313,324,326,335
AH-1F171981 - Present1 359,412,441,483
* Converted to AH-1S then to AH-1E

Unit Insignia:
Figure 1
Figure 1 courtesy of Amos Dor

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First Created: 9 January 1998 - Last Revised: 30 March 1998
Copyright © 1998 John Hayles.     e-mail: