Viper attack helicopters head to sea from Camp Pendleton during the exercise. Marine Corps photo

A dozen Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters demonstrated the ability to attack simultaneously at sea and on land during a complex training exercise last week.

The attack helicopters flew from Camp Pendleton and El Centro and struck simulated enemy targets during operation Viper Storm on Dec. 11.

Eight Vipers took to the sea to hunt for maritime threats, then were re-routed to link up with four additional Vipers and engage multiple land targets before rearming at a forward arming and refueling point. Once rearmed they again took to the sky to engage targets and support ground operations.

“Viper Storm was an opportunity to validate the modern maritime capabilities of the AH-1Z Viper to joint commanders within the Department of Defense, United States partners and allies, and potential peer adversaries,” said Col. William Bartolomea, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 39. “We were highlighting the maritime component of the Viper, the ability to go from ship-to-shore in a large element and address peer threats.”

The training exercise underscores a shift in the Marine Corps back to its traditional maritime focus after long involvement in the land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also showed how the Viper could operate in support of the Navy.

Introduced in 2010, the Viper is a more heavily armed improvement over the legendary Super Cobra attack helicopter. During last week’s exercise, the 12 Vipers carried Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, but the aircraft can be configured to carry a wide variety of other weapons.

“Posturing Vipers forward is what the aircraft was made to do,” said Bartolomea. “We are an attack helicopter. Killing enemy forces is what we do for a living. We don’t provide a whole lot of value on the ground unless we are refueling, rearming, and getting back to the air to engage the enemy or facilitate other joint weapons platforms and systems.”

Four Vipers hover near El Centro during the exercise Viper Storm. Marine Corps photo
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