Not many wars have an icon, but if the Vietnam War has one, it’s the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the “Huey.” The revolutionary changes in warfare that it ushered in, combined with its signature “whop-whop-whop” sound and its appearance in hundreds of movies and television shows, make it the ubiquitous image of a helicopter.
Seeking a general-purpose helicopter which was relatively small and easy to maintain, the US Army issued a request for proposals in 1953, and selected Bell’s Model 204 design in 1955. Initially designated the HU-1, from which its nickname stems, the UH-1A entered service in 1960. A requirement for more power led quickly to the UH-1B, and the need for self-protection to the UH-1C gunship variant to fly escort.
While the Army considered the Huey a great success, they asked for an increase in troop seating. Bell responded by stretching the Huey’s body, fitting four more seats and creating the UH-1D, known by Bell as the Model 205. An engine upgrade resulted in the UH-1H, which would be the most-produced version. Later models added a second engine, and the US Marine Corps UH-1Y, still in active service today, replaced the signature two-blade rotor with a four-blade one.
The Huey is, of course, inextricably linked with the Vietnam War. Over 7000 Hueys flew for the US Army in Vietnam, joined by hundreds of others flown by the US Air Force and Navy, and the Royal Australian Army, Air Force, and Navy. More than 3,300 Army UH-1s were destroyed, and almost 2,200 Army air crew perished. However, the bravery of the Huey crews meant that tens of thousands of injured soldiers survived wounds that would have meant certain death in earlier conflicts, thousands were evacuated from situations that would otherwise have been hopeless, and thousands received supplies that enabled them to emerge victorious in battles they would otherwise have lost. Its impact on the Vietnam War is simply incalculable, and its effect on the conduct of modern mobile warfare is immense.
While the US Army recently retired its last UH-1s after over 50 years of service, the type continues in service with over 35 nations, of more than fifty who have flown the type. Notably, at least a dozen continue to be flown by Vietnam, who captured or recovered large numbers during and after the Vietnam War. UH-1s have seen recent service with the Drug Enforcement Agency, who used them in eradicating heroin poppy crops in Afghanistan, and hundreds of former military Hueys fly today in civilian hands, being particularly popular as construction and logging helicopters.
In addition to getting to visit and sit in the Museum’s UH-1H, lucky visitors may see both old and modern Hueys in flight at the Kalaeloa Airport: the Marines occasionally operate their current UH-1Ys in the area, and there are a number of civilian UH-1s and Model 205s which visit.
Serial Number 69-15708:
The Museum’s Huey is a Vietnam veteran, proudly bearing battle scars. Though she was never shot down, she did crash, severing the tail boom. She was shipped back to America, repaired, and sent back to Vietnam again. She eventually found her way to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, who donated her to the Museum in 2002.
|Length:||41 feet 5 inches (4.39 meters)|
|Rotor Diameter:||48 feet 3 inches (14.71 meters)|
|Height:||13 feet 7 inches (4.14 meters)|
|Empty Weight:||5,215 lbs (2,365 kg)|
|Max. Weight:||9,500 lbs (4,309 kg)|
|Powerplant:||1x Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft, 1,400 shp (1,044 kW)|
|Max. Speed:||143 mph (124 kts, 230 kph)|
|Range:||315 miles (274 nm, 507 km)|
|Armament:||Variable; can include door-mount, flex-mount, and fixed-mount machine guns or miniguns, rocket pods, and guided missiles|