The Marines have sent some snakes to deal with ISIS in Libya. The North African country has been a haven for the terrorist group since dictator Muammar Qaddafi was deposed in 2011.
The “snakes” in question are Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters. The basic AH-1 design first entered service in 1965. Yeah, Marines are flying into combat in a fifty-year old design. That said, the Cobra has been a classic. The AH-1W entered service in 1986. Equipped with a M197 cannon, as well as the ability to carry BGM-71 TOW missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, Zuni rockets, Hydra rockets, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders, the AH-1W can take out a variety of targets. The AH-1W is being replaced by the AH-1Z, an advanced version that has an improved rotor, improved sensors, and a larger warload (up to 16 Hellfires) than the 30-year-old AH-1W. The attack helicopters are working with AV-8B+ Harriers in carrying out air strikes against ISIS targets in the region.
The Cobras were sent to back the new Libyan government, known as the Government of National Accord, which has been fighting with ISIS near Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte. According to a report by Agence France-Presse, pro-government forces fighting in that area have suffered over 350 killed and 2,000 wounded.
“We are there at the request of the GNA,” Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) told the French news agency. “We will continue our support for as long as it is requested. If they were to tell us tomorrow they don’t need our support any more, we would end our support at that point.”
The Harriers and SuperCobra choppers are part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, which consists of a battalion of Marines and a composite squadron of V/STOL aircraft, helicopters, and tiltrotors. The MEU is based on a large-deck amphibious ship like USS Wasp (LHD 1), which is currently in the Mediterranean Sea under the operational control of the Sixth Fleet.