In the early 1980s, the Mil Mi-24 Hind and the Bell AH-1 Cobra were the major attack helicopters on either side of the Cold War. Had the Russians tried to storm the Fulda Gap, these two choppers would’ve butt heads — often — in between efforts to blast the other side’s tanks and troops to hell.
Both these helicopters saw their fair share of action. The Hind proved itself in Afghanistan and elsewhere, while the Cobra saw extensive use in the Vietnam War. By the 80s, these were mature, proven designs — and both packed a lot of punch.
The Mi-24 Hind entered service in 1973. The definitive Hind D packed a 12.7mm Gatling gun in the nose and could carry a mix of rocket pods (usually 57mm rockets) and anti-tank missiles (usually AT-2 or AT-6) on six pylons. UH-1s, on the other hand, often carried some 7.62mm machine guns and had pylons enough for two rocket pods. In a sense, the Hind took some concepts from the UH-1 and put them on steroids. Like the UH-1, the Hind could also carry troops into battle — usually eight personnel.
Its likely opponent, the AH-1 Cobra, was somewhat different. In the middle of the Vietnam War, the United States Army wanted a dedicated gunship. Eventually, their search resulted in the HueyCobra. The Cobra was a much smaller target than its predecessor since, unlike the Huey, it didn’t haul infantry around. By the 1980s, the Cobra was armed with a M197 20mm cannon, a three-barrel Gatling gun, and could carry a mix of rocket pods and BGM-71 TOW missiles.
So, in a fictional fight, which of these helicopters would come out on top? As always, much depends on the mission. The Mi-24 Hind would have been very useful for air assault missions. A typical loadout was composed of four rocket pods, each carrying 32 57mm rockets, along with four anti-tank missiles. This would be devastating for rear-area troops, who not only would have to deal with being hit by rockets, but also with the infantry that would soon follow. The Cobra, on the other hand, packed a lot more of an anti-tank punch.
If it came down to a helicopter dogfight, though, the Cobra would have a clear edge. While the Hind does have the speed edge, the Cobra is much smaller and its 20mm cannon packs more of a punch. Were the two to go head-to-head, the Soviets would quickly find themselves down both a chopper and, potentially, an entire infantry section, too.