Marine AH-1Z Attack Helicopter Looks Amazing In Throwback Sea Cobra Camouflage

The Marines’ first designated attack helicopter squadron is celebrating 50 years of business with an old-school paint scheme.

byTyler Rogoway|
AH-1 photo


Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 (HMLA-269), the "Gunrunners," is now sporting an AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter in a camouflage scheme that is a direct throwback to the AH-1J/T Sea Cobras and AH-1W Super Cobras the unit operated over the decades following its establishment in 1971. In fact, it was the first designated attack helicopter squadron in Marine Corps history. So, some sort of commemoration for 50 years at the tip of the Marine Corps' spear is in order. 

Images of the green, charcoal, and gray AH-1Z were taken during a recent training exercise in Colorado. The exercise focused on cold-weather, high-altitude drills that would better prepare the unit for expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO). The unit is home-based at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina. 

In a response to a question about the paint scheme on Twitter, the 2d Marine Air Wing stated: 

"This specific helicopter is HMLA-269’s flagship bird. It’s given the number 71 to commemorate their inception in 1971, and the colors are a homage to their service in the Middle East."

Marines prep HMLA-269's camouflaged AH-1Z for another mission during high-altitude, cold-weather training in Colorado. , USMC/2nd MAW

It's great to see HMLA-269 play up its rich heritage. Its Cobras have made a lot of history while wearing this 'sea snake' camouflage. This has included extensive operations in Iraq during both wars there and a number of firsts dealing with updated weapon systems employment. 

But probably most famously, back in 1995, a pair of the unit's Cobras wearing this exact scheme escorted a pair of CH-53Es off the USS Kearsarge and deep into enemy territory to rescue Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady, an F-16 pilot who was shot down over Bosnia, from falling into enemy hands. 

HMLA-269 AH-1W seen operating from an amphibious assault ship in the 1990s. , National Archives
National Archives

While the AH-1Z looks stunningly similar to the Sea Cobras and Super Cobras of decades past when wearing this scheme, it is a far more advanced and capable weapon system. But even though these aircraft, some of which were remanufactured from AH-1Ws, are still relatively young, changing priorities with the USMC has already seen some retired to the boneyard. At the same time, we may soon see a very similar scheme in fleet-wide use—with the Czech Air Force.  

Czech MOD

So here's to you, HMLA-269, for keeping the Sea Cobra and the unit's legacy alive with this stunning scheme. Now if we could just get the entire USMC to adopt it on its entire UH-1/AH-1 fleet ...

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