In 7 September 1965 Bell flew the prototype of the world's first dedicated attack helicopter. Based on the Model 204 utility helicopter, the Model 209 introduced a new slim fuselage with a fighter-type cockpit. The pilot sits high in the rear with a co-pilot/gunner lower in the front directing the fire of a wide range of weapons mounted on lateral stub wings or under the nose. The AH-1G HueyCobra went into production in 1966 and over 1 000 were delivered in the first four years. The AH-1G saw extensive service in Vietnam.
The AH-1J SeaCobra was the first twin-engine version, for the US Marine Corps, with a 1 800 hp T400 installation; in 1974-5 a batch of 202 with TOW missiles was supplied to Iran.
The AH-1Q was an interim US Army version with TOW missiles, produced by conversion from AH-1G airframes, while the AH-1S, fitted with the 1 800-shp T53-703 engine was a production HueyCobra with TOW capability and other improvements. A number of AH-1Q aircraft were also modified to -1S standards, while AH-1S model aircraft were themselves modified into a number of variants. In addition, the AH-1P was produced by conversion of AH-1S helicopters with flat-plate canopies and other revisions. This confusing situation was resolved in 1987, when all surviving US Army HueyCobras were updated to a common AH-1F standard.
Fuji-Bell has produced the AH-1S as an equivalent of the AH-1F for the Japans Ground Self Defense Forces. Having evolved through the AH-1J and TOW-capable AH-1T, in 2001, the USMC's SeaCobra was represented by the AH-1W SuperCobra. This Hellfire-toting machine was upgraded in a similar manner to the USMC UH-1N fleet to AH-1Z standard, featuring a four-bladed rotor and many other changes for continued service well into the 21st century. Both single- and twin-engined Model 209s have been widely exported.