The Super Cobras

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CBS/The Early Show
It is a swift fighting machine, designed to rapidly lay down fire ahead of advancing Marines. The Cobra can operate 50 feet off the ground at speeds of more than 160 miles an hour, reports The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen.

As the war was getting under way, a Marine commander, who cannot be identified for security reasons, showed her what makes this aircraft so special.

"The pilot in the backseat is the flier; the man or the woman in the front seat operates the weapons system," the commander explains.

The Cobra is armed with several weapons systems including the Hellfire missile. One Cobra could take out eight tanks. And unlike in the first Gulf War, Cobras can do the bulk of their business at night, with new technology that makes the targets on the ground easy to identify.

"You could almost think of it as a light saber like they do in 'Star Wars.' It points a line that's only visible on night vision goggles so it's not any good to me during the day," he explains.

The squadron commander fought in the Persian Gulf in 1991. Along with the Cobra, his Marines operate Viet Nam era, all-purpose, Huey helicopters. The machine guns on the Huey can fire 4,000 rounds per minute. That's a football field in a matter of seconds.

"A lot of people talk about jack of all trades, master of none. I'd say, jack of all trades, master of many. We can do casualty evacuation or Medevac and get somebody that's wounded back to aid," he says.

Or take the ground commander up to give him a bird's eye view of his battlefield.

"It gives him an opportunity to be a decision maker on a real time element," the commander says.

This squadron, nicknamed the Vipers, is out of Camp Pendleton in California. They have been training at a desert camp for weeks and, the commander says, are prepared for battle.

"There are probably three kinds of ways that people get ready for this," he says. "One is that they pray; two is that they think that it's just fate, and the third one is we think we're bulletproof."