Aviation Historian 12
W.Thompson - The Scarface Klan
A Bell AH-1G HueyCobra of HML-367 closes in on a suspected Viet Cong hideout in 1970. The HueyCobra incorporated the powerplant, transmission system and rotor of Bell’s tried-and-trusted UH-1C Huey, the new dedicated gunship variant making its first flight on September 7, 1965, a mere six months after development had started.
A ’Cobra of HML-367 peels away towards the base at Marble Mountain after a lengthy patrol. The unit returned to Vietnam in the spring of 1975, its UH-1Es participating in the evacuation of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees during the fall of Saigon. In 2009 HMLA-367’s Bell UH-1Y Venoms deployed to Afghanistan.
Colonel Haywood Smith, Commanding Officer of MAG-16 and all US Marine Corps helicopter operations in Vietnam, smiles for the camera beside one of the “Scarface Klan’s” HueyCobras.
An armourer loads the 7-62mm M134 minigun on the starboard station of the M28 nose turret. The mini-gun, a Gatling-style machine-gun with electrically-operated rotating barrels, was a scaled-down version of the M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon; the M134 was capable of delivering up to 4,000 rounds per minute without overheating.
The port stub wing of this HML-367 AH-1G, adorned with an appropriate Cobra motif on the nose, is fitted with a 19-tube M159 2-75in folding-fin aerial rocket (FFAR) launcher inboard, with an M158 seven-tube FFAR launcher on the outboard hardpoint.
A “snake” (HueyCobra) of HML-367 and a pair of US Marine Corps Boeing-Vertol CH-46s - nicknamed “Phrogs” in service owing to the type’s appearance of squatting like a frog when on the ground - await the passing of a thunderstorm at Marble Mountain before undertaking a mission to drop USMC forces deep into enemy-held territory.
HueyCobras of HML-367 in their revetments at Marble Mountain.
Spelling it out - the unit’s nickname is written in ammunition on the hangar floor at HML-367’s base at Marble Mountain. This head-on view shows the devastating firepower that each HueyCobra had at its disposal. The front turret is a standard M28 unit, equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher to port and an M134 minigun.
Captain Robert W. “Robby” Robinson was one of the Scarface Klan’s “top-timers”, having completed some 1,140 combat missions by the time the unit was rotated out of theatre. Robinson later published a highly-readable account of his experiences with the unit in Vietnam, entitled Scarface 42 (Tailwind Publications, 2008).
This view from an HML-367 HueyCobra’s “office” shows the comparatively simple instrumentation in the gunship’s cockpit. The instruments show the helicopter climbing through 4,000ft at 74kt; the apparently high altitude is deceptive, however, as much of the unit’s work involved weaving through the Annamite mountains.
This view from the cockpit of an HML-367 HueyCobra was taken while protecting a CH-46 resupplying a remote USMC outpost - note the shadow of the “Phrog” on the slope facing the camera. Such resupply missions required acute vigilance from the Cobra, as the incoming helicopters were extremely vulnerable to groundfire.