The Huey Bell UH-1 Iroquois

The Huey



Edited for this Website by Commander Web

The Huey was the most reliable and tough aircraft in the Army inventory. I always loved flying the Huey. It was the rookies’ savior and the old guy’s dream ride.
This chopper will go down in history as the DC-3 of Helicopters. Tim’s voice above, he forwarded this email to me from Paul Cotter, which I copied and posted here on my website and added the photos.Image result for the huey helicopter

The Army retired the last Huey in 2011. Here’s a nice tribute to those who remember:

It was 53 yrs ago this month that the first Huey arrived in Vietnam with units that were to become part of the 145th and the 13th Combat Aviation Battalions; both units assigned here at Ft Rucker today.

While in Vietnam, the Huey flew approximately 7,457,000 combat assault sorties; 3,952,000 attack or gunship sorties and 3,548,000 cargo supply sorties. That comes to over 15 million sorties flown over the paddies and jungles of Nam, not to include the millions of sorties flown all over the world and other combat zones since then ….what an amazing journey… I am honored and humbled to have been a small part of that journey.

To those in the crowd that have had the honor to fly, crew, or ride this magnificent machine in combat, we are the chosen few, the lucky ones.

They understand what this aircraft means, and how hard it is for me to describe my feelings about her as a Vietnam combat pilot…. for she is alive… has a life of her own, and has been a lifelong friend.

How do I break down in a few minutes a 42-year love affair, she is as much a part of me, and to so many others…as the blood that flows through our veins. Try to imagine all those touched over the years …by the shadow of her blades. Other aircraft can fly overhead and some will look up and some may not, or even recognize what they see but, when a Huey flies over everyone looks up and everyone knows who she is… young or old all over the world she connects with all.

To those that rode her into combat… the sound of those blades causes our heartbeat to rise… and breaths to quicken… in anticipation of seeing that beautiful machine fly overhead and the feeling of comfort she brings. No other aircraft in the history of aviation evokes the emotional response the Huey does… combat veteran’s or not… she is recognized all around the world by young and old, she is the ICON of the Vietnam war, U.S. Army Aviation, and the U.S. Army. Over 5 decades of service she carried Army Aviation on her back, from bird dogs and piston-powered helicopters with a secondary support mission to the force multiplier combat arm that Army Aviation is today.

Even the young aviators of today, that are mainly Apache pilot’s, Blackhawk pilots, etc., that have had a chance to fly her will tell you there is no greater feeling, honor, or thrill than to be blessed with the opportunity to ride her thru the sky… they may love their Apaches and Blackhawks, but they will say there is no aircraft like flying the Huey  – ” it is special”. There are two kinds of helicopter pilots: those that have flown the Huey and those that wish they could have.

The intense feelings generated for this aircraft are not just from the flight crews but, also from those who rode in back …into and out of the “devil’s caldron”. As paraphrased here from “Gods own lunatics”, Joe Galloway’stribute to the Huey and her flight crews and other Infantry veteran’s comments:

“Is there anyone here today who does not thrill to the sound of those Huey blades?? That familiar whop-whop-whop is the soundtrack of our war…the lullaby of our younger days it is burned in to our brains and our hearts. To those who spent their time in Nam as a grunt, know that noise was always a great comfort… Even today when I hear it, I stop…catch my breath…and search the sky for a glimpse of the mighty eagle. To the pilots and crews of that wonderful machine …we loved you, we loved that machine.

No matter how bad things were…if we called … you came… down through the hail of green tracers and other visible signs of a real bad day off to a bad start. I can still hear the sound of those blades churning the fiery sky ….

To us you seemed beyond brave and fearless… Down you would come to us in the middle of battle in those flimsy thin skin -chariots …into the storm of fire and hell,..


 …we feared for you , we were awed by you. We thought of you and that beautiful bird as “God’s own lunatics”… and wondered …who are these men and this machine and where do they come from …..

Have to be “Gods’ Angels”.


So with that I say to her, that beautiful lady sitting out there, from me and all my lucky brothers, that were given the honor to serve their country, and the privilege of flying this great lady in skies of Vietnam – Thank you for the memories…Thank you for always being there…

Thank you for always bringing us home regardless of how beat up and shot up you were…, Thank You!!!!.


 You will never be forgotten, we loved you then….. we love you now… and will love you till our last breath …


 And as the sun sets today, if you listen quietly and closely you will hear that faint wop wop wop of our mother speaking to all her children past and present who rode her into history in a blaze of glory ..she will be saying to them: I am here… I will always be here with you.

I am at peace and so should you be … and so should you be.”


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A little history,

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois (nicknamed “Huey“) is a utility military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-blade main and tail rotors. The first member of the prolific Huey family, it was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet a United States Army’s 1952 requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter, and first flew in 1956. The UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter produced for the United States military, and more than 16,000 have been built since 1960.

The Iroquois was originally designated HU-1, hence the Huey nickname, which has remained in common use, despite the official redesignation to UH-1 in 1962. The UH-1 first saw service in combat operations during the Vietnam War, with around 7,000 helicopters deployed. The Bell 204 and 205 are Iroquois versions developed for the civil market.

the huey

A Bell XH-40, a prototype of the UH-1

In 1952, the U.S. Army identified a requirement for a new helicopter to serve as medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), instrument trainer, and general utility aircraft.

The Army determined that current helicopters were too large, underpowered, or too complex to maintain easily. Twenty companies submitted designs in their bid for the contract, including Bell Helicopter with the Model 204 and Kaman Aircraft with a turbine-powered version of the H-43. On 23 February 1955, the Army announced its decision, selecting Bell to build three copies of the Model 204 for evaluation with the designation XH-40.

Model 204

Powered by a prototype Lycoming YT53-L-1 (LTC1B-1) engine producing 700 shp (520 kW), the XH-40 first flew on 20 October 1956 at Fort Worth, Texas, with Bell’s chief test pilot, Floyd Carlson, at the controls. Two more prototypes were built in 1957, and the Army had previously ordered six YH-40 service test aircraft, even before the first prototype had flown. In March 1960, the Army awarded Bell a production contract for 100 aircraft. Which were designated as the HU-1A and officially named Iroquois after the Native American nations.

The helicopter quickly developed a nickname derived from its designation of HU-1, which came to be pronounced as “Huey”.

The reference became so popular that Bell began casting the name on the helicopter’s anti-torque pedals. The official U.S. Army name was almost never used in practice. After September 1962, the designation for all models was changed to UH-1 under a unified Department of Defense (DOD) designation system, but the nickname remained.

While glowing in praise for the helicopter’s advances over piston-engined helicopters. The Army reports from the service tests of the YH-40 found it to be underpowered with the production T53-L-1A powerplant producing a maximum continuous 770 shaft horsepower (570 kilowatts). The Army indicated the need for improved follow-on models even as the first UH-1As were being delivered. In response. Bell proposed the UH-1B, equipped with the Lycoming T53-L-5 engine producing 960 shp (720 kW) and a longer cabin that could accommodate either seven passengers or four stretchers and a medical attendant. Army testing of the UH-1B started in November 1960, with the first production aircraft delivered in March 1961.

Bell commenced development of the UH-1C in 1960 in order to correct aerodynamic deficiencies of the armed UH-1B

Bell fitted the UH-1C with a 1,100 shp (820 kW) T53-L-11 engine to provide the power needed to lift all weapons systems in use or under development. The Army would eventually refit all UH-1B aircraft with the same engine. A new rotor system was developed for the UH-1C to allow higher airspeeds and reduce the incidence of retreating blade stall during diving engagements. The improved rotor resulted in better maneuverability and a slight speed increase. The increased power and a larger diameter rotor required Bell’s engineers to design a new tail boom for the UH-1C. The longer tail boom incorporated a wider chord vertical fin on the tail rotor pylon and larger synchronized elevators.

Bell also introduced a dual hydraulic control system for redundancy as well as an improved inlet filter system for the dusty conditions found in southeast Asia. The UH-1C fuel capacity was increased to 242 US gallons (920 liters), and gross weight was raised to 9,500 lb (4,309 kg), giving a nominal useful load of 4,673 lb (2,120 kg). UH-1C production started in June 1966 with a total of 766 aircraft produced, including five for the Royal Australian Navy and five for Norway.

Model 205

the huey

Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Air Unit Fire Support Bell HH-1H

While earlier “short-body” Hueys were a success, the Army wanted a version that could carry more troops

Bell’s solution was to stretch the HU-1B fuselage by 41 in (104 cm) and use the extra space to fit four seats next to the transmission, facing out. Seating capacity increased to 15, including crew. The enlarged cabin could also accommodate six stretchers and a medic, two more than the earlier models. In place of the earlier model’s sliding side doors with a single window, larger doors were fitted which had two windows, plus a small hinged panel with an optional window, providing enhanced access to the cabin. The doors and hinged panels were quickly removable, allowing the Huey to be flown in a “doors off” configuration.

The Model 205 prototype flew on 16 August 1961

Seven pre-production/prototype aircraft had been delivered for testing at Edwards AFB starting in March 1961.  The rotor was lengthened to 48 feet (14.6 m) with a chord of 21 in (53 cm). The tail boom was also lengthened, in order to accommodate the longer rotor blades. Altogether, the modifications resulted in gross weight capacity of 9,500 lb (4,309 kg). The Army ordered production of the 205 in 1963, produced with a T53-L-11 engine for its multi-fuel capability.] The prototypes were designated as YUH-1D and the production aircraft was designated as the UH-1D.

Lycoming T53-L-13 Engine

In 1966, Bell installed the 1,400 shp (1,000 kW) Lycoming T53-L-13 engine to provide more power for the aircraft. The pitot tube was relocated from the nose to the roof of the cockpit, to prevent damage during landing. Production models in this configuration were designated as the UH-1H.

Marine Corps

In 1962, the United States Marine Corps held a competition to choose an assault support helicopter to replace the Cessna O-1 fixed-wing aircraft and the Kaman OH-43D helicopter

The winner was the UH-1B, which was already in service with the Army.  The major changes included the use of all-aluminum construction for corrosion resistance, radios compatible with Marine Corps ground frequencies, a rotor brake for shipboard use to stop the rotor quickly on shutdown and a roof-mounted rescue hoist.

The UH-1E was first flown on 7 October 1963, and deliveries commenced 21 February 1964, with 192 aircraft completed.  The first 34 built were essentially UH-1B airframes with the Lycoming T53-L-11 engine producing 1,100 shp (820 kW). When Bell switched production to the UH-1C, the UH-1E production benefited from the same changes. The Marine Corps later upgraded UH-1E engines to the Lycoming T53-L-13, which produced 1,400 shp (1,000 kW), after the Army introduced the UH-1M and upgraded their UH-1C helicopters to the same engine.

Air Force

The United States Air Force’s (USAF) competition for a helicopter to be used for support on missile bases included a specific requirement to mandate the use of the General Electric T58 turboshaft as a power plant

The Air Force had a large inventory of these engines on hand for its fleet of HH-3 Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters and using the same engine for both helicopters would save costs. In response, Bell proposed an upgraded version of the 204B with the T58 engine. Because the T58 output shaft is at the rear and was thus mounted in front of the transmission on the HH-3, it had to have a separate offset gearbox (SDG or speed decreaser gearbox) at the rear, and shafting to couple to the UH-1 transmission.

Twin–engine variants

Bell began development of the UH-1N for Canada in 1968. It changed to the more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T twin-engine set. The U.S. also ordered the helicopter with the U.S. Air Force receiving it in 1970. Canada’s military, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Navy first received the model in 1971.

Operational history

U.S. Army

UH-1Ds airlift members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment from the Filhol Rubber Plantation area to a staging area in 1966.

The HU-1A (later redesignated UH-1A) first entered service with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 57th Medical Detachment.
Although intended for evaluation only, the Army quickly pressed the new helicopter into operational service, and Hueys with the 57th Medical Detachment arrived in Vietnam in March 1962. The UH-1 has long been a symbol of US involvement in Southeast Asia in general and Vietnam in particular, and as a result of that conflict, has become one of the world’s most recognized helicopters. In Vietnam primary missions included general support, air assault, cargo transport, aeromedical evacuation, search and rescue, electronic warfare, and later, ground attack. During the conflict, the craft was upgraded, notably to a larger version based on the Model 205. This version was initially designated the UH-1D and flew operationally from 1963.

A rifle squad from the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry exiting from a UH-1D.

During service in the Vietnam War, the UH-1 was used for various purposes and various terms for each task abounded.

UH-1s tasked with a ground attack or armed escort were outfitted with rocket launchers,  grenade launchers, and machine guns. As early as 1962, UH-1s were modified locally by the companies themselves, who fabricated their own mounting systems. These gunship UH-1s were commonly referred to as “Frogs” or “Hogs” if they carried rockets, and “Cobras” or simply “Guns” if they had guns UH-1s tasked and configured for troop transport were often called “Slicks” due to an absence of weapons pods. Slicks did have door gunners but were generally employed in the troop transport and medevac roles.

UH-1s also flew “hunter-killer” teams with observation helicopters, namely the Bell OH-58A Kiowa and the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (Loach). Towards the end of the conflict, the UH-1 was tested with TOW missiles, and two UH-1B helicopters equipped with the XM26 Armament Subsystem were deployed to help counter the 1972 Easter Invasion. USAF Lieutenant James P. Fleming piloted a UH-1F on a 26 November 1968 mission that earned him the Medal of Honor.

Two UH-1B Huey gunships from HAL-3 “Seawolf” sit on the deck of USS Garrett County in Mekong Delta, South Vietnam.

During the course of the war, the UH-1 went through several upgrades

The UH-1A, B, and C models (short fuselage, Bell 204) and the UH-1D and H models (stretched-fuselage, Bell 205) each had improved performance and load-carrying capabilities. The UH-1B and C performed the gunship, and some of the transport, duties in the early years of the Vietnam War. UH-1B/C gunships were replaced by the new AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter from 1967 to late 1968. The increasing intensity and sophistication of NVA anti-aircraft defenses made continued use of UH-1 gunships impractical, and after Vietnam, the Cobra was adopted as the Army’s main attack helicopter. Devotees of the UH-1 in the gunship role cite its ability to act as an impromptu Dustoff if the need arose, as well as the superior observational capabilities of the larger Huey cockpit, which allowed return fire from door gunners to the rear and sides of the aircraft. In air cavalry troops (i.e., companies) UH-1s were combined with infantry scouts, OH-6 and OH-58 aero-scout helicopters, and AH-1 attack helicopters to form several color-coded teams (viz., blue, white, red, purple, and pink) to perform various reconnaissance, security, and “economy of force” missions in fulfilling the traditional cavalry battlefield role.

OH-6A Cayuse Helicopter

The Army tested a great variety of experimental weapons on the UH-1; nearly anything that could be carried

The Army desired weapons with large calibers and high rates of fire, which led to the testing of a 20 mm cannon on a large mount bolted to the cabin floor. The size of the weapon allowed very little room for movement. The Army further tested a full-size Vulcan cannon firing out the door of a UH-1. It was capable of firing 2400 rounds per minute, or about 40 rounds per second. Despite this being a significant reduction from the nearly 100 rounds per second fired by a standard Vulcan cannon, the installation proved “too kinetic” for the UH-1. Podded versions of the M24 20 mm cannon were tested in combat over Vietnam. There was a wide variety of 7.62 mm automatic weapons tested, including different installations of the M60 machine gun. AS-10 and SS-11 missiles were tested in several different configurations. High-capacity rocket launchers were also tested, such as the XM3 launcher, which had 24 launching tubes.

Huey with a 20mm Gun

During the 1972 Easter offensive by North Vietnam, experimental models of the TOW-firing XM26 were taken out of storage and sent to South Vietnam to help stop the onslaught. The pilots had never fired a TOW missile before and were given just crash courses. Despite having little training with the units, the pilots managed to hit targets with 151 of the 162 missiles fired in combat, including a pair of tanks. The airborne TOW launchers were known as “Hawks Claws” and were based at Camp Holloway During the war 7,013 UH-1s served in Vietnam and of these 3,305 were destroyed. In total 1,074 Huey pilots were killed, along with 1,103 other crew members.

The US Army phased out the UH-1 with the introduction of the UH-60 Black Hawk, although the Army UH-1 Residual Fleet had around 700 UH-1s that were to be retained until 2015, primarily in support of Army Aviation training at Fort Rucker and in selected Army National Guard units. Army support for the craft was intended to end in 2004. The UH-1 was retired from active Army service in 2005. In 2009, Army National Guard retirements of the UH-1 accelerated with the introduction of the UH-72 Lakota.] The final UH-1 was retired in 2016.


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