The IAF has quietly retired one of its oldest and most venerable weapon systems recently. The AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter OrBat, which entered service in 1975, was demobilized pursuant to a decision (in the context of the recent cuts in the defense budget) to discontinue using the outdated helicopters. The demobilization process was executed in three stages: on July 29, 2013 the attack helicopter flight of the Red (Aggressor) Squadron was demobilized. A week later, on August 2, 2013, the First Attack Helicopter Squadron stationed at Palmachim AFB was demobilized, and on March 20, 2014, the Tzefa flights of the advanced training – attack helicopter squadron of the IAF flying school were discontinued.
The AH-1 Cobra helicopter, designated Tzefa in the IAF, entered service pursuant to the implementation of one of the primary lessons derived from the Yom-Kippur War of 1973 – the need for a weapon system capable of stopping or at least delaying an enemy armored attack, to provide the IDF with the response interval required in order to mobilize the reservist brigades and deploy them to the front line.
Accordingly, six AH-1G Cobra attack helicopters were purchased in 1975 from the US Army and a Cobra flight was established as part of the IAF Rolling Sword Squadron. The objective of the new flight was to thoroughly examine the new weapon system – the attack helicopter, designed to combat armored elements – and develop a suitable combat doctrine so that this weapon system may be employed effectively. Studies and trials conducted in the USA had shown that on average, an attack helicopter can destroy about 20 armored vehicles before it is hit, and at that rate of destruction, one squadron of 20 helicopters is the equivalent of two complete armored brigades. […]