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The Next Chapter for Bell’s H-1 Helicopters Begins


The first Bell AH-1Z helicopter that will receive the Structural Improvement Electrical Power Upgrade (SIEPU) modification has arrived at Bell's Amarillo Assembly Center. Bell Textron will provide the upgrade under a contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. The SIEPU modifications will optimize the aircraft, increase its electrical power capacity, and support the integration of additional cabin capabilities. These upgrades will enhance the aircraft's mission capabilities, aircrew safety, and interoperability. The SIEPU upgrade marks the beginning of the next phase in the life of domestic H-1 helicopters, following the completion of the U.S. Marine Corps Program of Record in November 2022.



“The Bell AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom provide the backbone of attack and utility aviation support in the various battlespaces in which they are used, so SIEPU comes at an important time for the future strategic implementation of this platform,” said Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 senior vice president and program director. “SIEPU will be immediately beneficial for today’s operations, and also sets the H-1 up to quickly support future operational needs, some that may not even be conceived of yet.”



SIEPU will enable H-1s to upgrade to the latest weapons systems with advanced capabilities, such as long-range kinetic munitions, air-launched effects, and non-kinetic capabilities. These upgrades significantly increase reach and range while also improving standoff distance. While the H-1s have already demonstrated their capability to counter enemy unmanned aerial systems, SIEPU will also allow for enough onboard power capacity for future weapons that are yet to be implemented.



“We are confident that SIEPU will help the Marine Corps expand mission-essential tasks with more mission flexibility,” said Danielle Markham, SIEPU program manager. The important thing is to make sure the H-1 is in a position to take advantage of those opportunities as they become available.”



Before reaching the Bell Amarillo Assembly Center, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y underwent datalink capabilities testing with Marine Corps modifications at Camp Pendleton and testing with VMX-1 in Yuma. Bell plans to continue supporting the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom in accordance with the Marine Corps Aviation Plan until the 2040s.

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