Helicopter gunship in Afghanistan

The classic helicopter gunship is the AH-1 Huey Cobra, nicknamed "Whisky" by American troops and "Skinny Dog" by Iraqi troops from the Gulf War. The Cobra began as a two-blade-single-rotor tail prop heli and now has been refitted with a four-blade rotor for better efficiency and less vibration. The Cobra is a two-seater in which the pilot sits directly above and behind the navigator/gunner. The Cobra sports a three-barrel chin-mounted minigun and four weapons pylons on two stub wings. Currently the Cobra is in the AH-1Z stage of retofit.

During the Cold War the USSR built a helicopter gunship called the Mi-24 Hind (NATO codename). Unique among helicopter gunships, the Hind has onboard space for eight full-equipped troops to be inserted into the battle area.

Building on lessons learned from the Cobra, the US Army developed a new advanced attack helicopter called the AH-64 Apache. The Apache is built around the most advanced helicopter avionics available, and borrows the chin-gun and stub-wing configuration from the Cobra. During Desert Storm, the Apache suffered mechanical and electrical difficulties while the Cobra had few problems. Currently, the Apache is in active duty in Afghanistan. Perhaps it will change its reputation in this theatre.

Fixed-wing gunship in Afghanistan

The AC-130 Spectre gunship used recently by the US Army in Afghanistan against Taliban military targets is armed with two 30-mm miniguns, two 40-mm cannon, and a 105-mm howitzer. All five guns protrude from the port side of the aircraft and are aimed by a central targeting system. The spent shells from the howitzer are ejected through an open hatch on the starboard side. The Spectre has more firepower than a US Navy destroyer.


Federation of American Scientists. Military Analysis. http://www.fas.org/man/
Bell Textron Helicopters. Military Aircraft. http://www.bellhelicopter.textron.com/content/products/MilitaryHelicopters/