Story cover image by Jason Nava
The United States Forest Service said goodbye on October 16th to their Vietnam war-era Cobra helicopters as an aerial attack platform.
The final aircraft took its final flight as its sister Bell 209/AH-1 was already in various stages of dismantling at the Redding, California base as seen by AerialFire during a visit several months ago.
In a press release on the retirement, the Forest Service stated:
This past Saturday, the last remaining USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest (Region 5) Firewatch Cobra Program Viet Nam War-era helicopter took its final flight as we transition to a new era of aerial supervision utilizing modern helicopters and implement modern technologies like fixed-wing aircraft to service a larger landscape. . Additionally, Region 5 has stood up an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Program to reduce risk and hazards to firefighters both in the air and on the ground.
The roles previously served by the two Cobra helicopters will be performed by a combination of three modern platforms: new helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and UAS. There is no reduction in firefighting surveillance or operational capabilities with the transition, local communities and wildland firefighters will be better served by the advancements in modern technology.
The two Forest Service-owned AH109 helicopters were repurposed Vietnam War-era, U.S. Army attack helicopters for fire aviation, aerial supervision, and intelligence work. They served the Forest Service for nineteen years and reached their maximum lifespan after flying approximately 7,600 flight hours with the Cobra program.
“The Forest Service thanks all the pilots, mechanics, aerial supervisors, and program managers that made the Cobra program a success,” said Robert Baird, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for Region 5. “The next generation of equipment will continue this critical mission of public safety and protection.”
To watch a video on the USFS Cobra, click HERE