During the Vietnam War Bell’s UH-1 Iroquois helicopter was very important to the U.S. strategy of attack the enemy at will, when and where they wanted. Large groups of these helicopters filled with troops enabled the military to be highly mobile. Unfortunately these unarmed troop carriers were very vulnerable during landings into these hot Landing Zones, or LZs.

Army/Navy Designation System PosterThe Army sought to find an attack helicopter with a high chance of survivability that could hang out and attack any threats in the area of these landings zones, providing close air support to the troops and the UH-1 Huey. This requirement gave birth to Bell’s Model 209 Cobra Helicopter. This attack helicopter has served in every U.S. conflict since the Vietnam War.

The Cobra was modified with an Airborne Target Acquisition & Fire Control System (ATAFCS) by Ford Aerospace in the 1976/77 time frame. The system consisted of a laser designator, low light level TV system, forward looking infrared receiver/display system (FLIR) and a laser spot detector. The Ford Aero system was a predecessor of the TADS currently in use by the USMC on their AH-1 Super Cobras.

My connection with the helicopter was as an engineering technician responsible for the installation, maintenance, repair of the sensors and associated electronics packages on the helicopter. I was required to verify and validate the performance of the systems during U.S. Army flight and weapons system integration testing including integration with the helmet sight system.

This picture above within the article was taken around December 1977 at the Irvine, California, Ford Aerospace facility. It is the helicopter I was assigned to while testing the ATAFCS system.

Army/Navy Designation System Poster

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