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The Bell UH-1 Iroquois aka Huey

Overview

The UH-1 Iroquois is a military version of the Bell Model 204 helicopter. The XH-40 made its first flight on October 22, 1956. Iroquois initial designation was the HU-1, which resulted it in getting the popular nickname “Huey”. The designation changed to UH-1 in 1962 but the nickname stuck.[i] More Iroquois built than any other post-World War II aircraft.[ii] In the mid-70s there were more UH-1s in service than any other aircraft in active service. Over 46 countries were using them.[iii] Production is ongoing with over 16,000 produced.[iv]


[i] Vietnam Helicopters.org, UH-1H Iroquois “Huwy” Helicopter, Vietnam Helicopters Museum – UH-1H Iroquois “Huey” Helicopter, last accessed 11/11/22.

[ii] Jane’s Historic Military Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tom Holmes © HarperCollins Publishers 1998. P. 426.

[iii] Arsenal of Democracy, by Tom Gervasi and Bob Adelman © 1977. P.218.

[iv] Jane’s Historic Military Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tom Holmes © HarperCollins Publishers 1998. P. 426.

In Vietnam

Iroquois logged 7,531,955 flight hours in Vietnam. They flew various missions. They were mostly used to carry ground troops into combat. They would normally carry up to eight American soldiers or ten or more Vietnamese troops.[i] UH-1s airlifted over 90,000 patients, over half of them were Americans. On average they would get a wounded person to a hospital in less than an hour. The U.S. lost 2,838 Iroquois in Vietnam from all causes.[ii] The Republic of Vietnam lost 332 Iroquois and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) lost six. The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association records indicate 7,013 Iroquois survived their service in Vietnam.[iii]

Eight RAAF Iroquois of No. 9 Squadron, arrived in South Vietnam on June 6, 1966. No. 9 Squadron flew resupply missions to Australian troops at Nui Dat when enemy action cut off or threatened the road from Vung Tau to Nui Dat. During the Battle of Long Tan, August 18, two RAAF Iroquois flew in heavy rain at low altitude and delivered ammunition to Australian soldiers. RAAF Iroquois missions included; insertion and extraction of Special Air Service (SAS) patrols, evacuating wounded, spraying herbicides and pesticides, dropping leaflets, reconnaissance, transporting troops, and providing fire support. RAAF Iroquois flew their last mission on November 19, 1971 and left Vietnam in December. The RAAF Iroquois flew 237,424 missions in Vietnam.[iv] In 1988 Vietnam had 40 UH-1s in its inventory.[v]


[i] Vietnamese were on average smaller and weighed less than Americans.

[ii] “Lost” is different from “shot down” or “crashed”. Enemy fire often brought down helicopters which were repaired and returned to service. Helicopters that weren’t recovered or weren’t repairable were counted as lost.

[iii] Vietnam Helicopters.org, UH-1H Iroquois “Huwy” Helicopter, Vietnam Helicopters Museum – UH-1H Iroquois “Huey” Helicopter, last accessed 11/11/22.

[iv] No. 9 RAAF Squadron, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U53557, last accessed 11/11/22.

[v] Encyclopedia of the World’s Air Forces, by Michael J.H. Taylor © 1988 Multibooks Limited, P.177.

Post-Vietnam

Iroquois served with the U.S. Marines during their Lebanon 1983-84 peacekeeping mission. During the Grenada invasion, OPERATION URGENT FURY, U.S. Marines of HMM-266 flew UH-1N’s from the USS Guam. U.S. Army UH-1H’s served in the Grenada invasion for light utility, command and control, and observation. A UH-1H of the 82nd CAB participated in capturing General Hudson Austin. The Iroquois hovered over the house where General Austin was staying. UH-1Hs and other helicopters transported troops to Grenada.[i]

Iroquois also flew missions in the Panama invasion. In February 1990 an OH-58 and a UH-1H collided on a night mission and killed all 11 U.S. Army soldiers on board.[ii]

Iroquois served in Operation Desert Storm, 197 were deployed on February 1, 1991. Iraqi groundfire shot down a UH-1V. Two U.S. Army and one U.S. Marine Corps Iroquois were lost in non-combat incidents.[iii] Iroquois, tail number 69-15354, served in Vietnam and OPERATION DESERT STORM. This helicopter logged over 1,500 combat flight hours.[iv]

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Marine Helicopter Squadron Medium (HMH) 264, flew UH-1s and CH-46Es. These helicopters “were key components of Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)) aviation elements.[v]

Iroquois provided relief and rescue for many natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina.[vi]

[i] Air War Grenada by Stephen Harding © 1984.

[ii] UPI, 11 U.S. soldiers killed in Panama crash - UPI Archives, last accessed 11/13/22.

[iii] The Baltimore Sun, “U.S. aircraft losses, War in the Gulf” March 3, 1991.

[iv] Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, Hueys – Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, last accessed 11/20/22.

[v] Aur War Bosnia: UN and NATO Airpower by Tim Ripley© 1996.

[vi] Military.com, Medavac in New Orleans Hurricane Katrina | Military.com, last accessed 10/20/22.

The Global War on Terror

The U.S. gave ten Iroquois to Georgia to help Georgia fight against terrorists. A Philippine Air Force Iroquois flew US. Soldiers to Isabella on Basilan.

In Afghanistan U.S. Marine Iroquois flew Marines in landing operations. On December 16, 2001 an Iroquois medevac’d two Marines from Camp Rhino to Kandahar Airport. Iroquois supported ground forces in an engagement with enemy forces on August 2, 2004. At least one Marine UH-1N crashed and injured two of its crew.

On March 30, 2003 a Marine Iroquois of (HMLA)-169 crashed in Southern Iraq. The crash killed three Marines and wounded one. Enemy forces shot down a UH-1 over Najaf on August 5, 2004. On October 16, 2005 a UH-1W spotted terrorists. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Air Force operated 18 UH-1Hs. Jordan donated 16 of these UH-1Hs to Iraq.

The U.S. Army retired the last Iroquois on December 16, 2016. The U.S. Marines and other countries still use the Iroquois.[i] Bosnia and Herzegovina received four Bell Huey IIs on December 4, 2021.[ii]


[i] History.net, How Vietnam Veterans are Making a New Home for Old Huey Helicopters, by Jessica James, 6/15/2022, How Vietnam Veterans Are Making a New Home for Old Huey Helicopters (historynet.com), last accessed 11/20/22.

[ii] The Shephard News Team “Hueys Land in Bosnia Ahead of Schedule”, 12/7/2021, Hueys land in Bosnia ahead of schedule | Shephard (shephardmedia.com), last accessed 11/20/22.

UH-1A Stats

Arsenal of Democracy by Tom Gervasi, (c) 1977 Tom Gervasi & Bob Adelman.

ImperialMetric

Speed

127 mph

203 km/h

Range

248 miles

397 kilometers

Cargo Capacity

3,880 lbs

1,760 kg

Passenger Capacity

10 combat troops

Litter Capacity

2

Armarment system - M-5

1xM-75 40mm grenage launcher, 315 rounds

Armament system - M21

2xM-134 .303 caliber minigun, 600 rounds & 2xM-158 2.75" rocket pods with 7 FEAR each.

2xM-134 7.62 mm minigun, 600 rounds & 2xM-158 6.98 cm rocket pods with 7 FEAR each.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Robert Sacchi

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