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SIEPU, the next US Marines Bell H-1 helicopter upgrade

The Bell H-1 platform will receive a Structural Improvement Electrical Power Upgrade (SIEPU)
The Bell H-1 platform will receive a Structural Improvement Electrical Power Upgrade (SIEPU).
U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 471, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, refuel an AH-1Z Viper helicopter, assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 775, MAG-41, 4th MAW during a refueling exercise at Red Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 8, 2024.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mhecaela J. Watts.

AMARILLO, Texas – The Bell H-1 platform will receive a Structural Improvement Electrical Power Upgrade (SIEPU) to optimize the aircraft to improve mission capabilities, aircrew safety, and interoperability by increasing the electrical power capacity and support the integration of additional cabin capabilities. The first unit, an AH-1Z Viper, has arrived at Bell Amarillo Assembly Center to receive this modification to be provided by Bell Textron under a contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. SIEPU marks the start of the next chapter in the life of U.S. H-1 helicopter fleet, following the completion of 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.”

With SIEPU, H-1s will be able to upgrade to current weapons systems with next generation capabilities, including kinetic long-range munitions and air launched effects as well as new non-kinetic capabilities. These upgrades greatly extend reach and range while simultaneously enhancing standoff distance.

While the H-1s have already demonstrated their capability to counter enemy unmanned aerial systems (UAS), SIEPU will also allow for there to be enough on-board 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.”

Prior to arriving at the Bell Amarillo Assembly Center, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y completed datalink capabilities testing with the Marine Corps modifications at Camp Pendleton and testing with VMX-1 in Yuma. Bell Helicopter plans to continue supporting the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom through the 2040s in alignment with the Marine Corps Aviation Plan.

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