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UH-1H Iroquois (Huey)

The UH-1H (Bell model 205A-1) is a single-engine helicopter identical to the UH-1D, but equipped with an upgraded engine that allowed transport of up to 13 troops. The UH-1H has a two-bladed semi-rigid see-saw bonded all-metal main rotor and a two-bladed rigid delta hinge bonded all-metal tail rotor. The UH-1H is powered by a single Lycoming T53-L-13B 1400 shp turboshaft engine. More UH-1H Hueys were built than any other model. The UH-1H was licensed for co-production in the Republic of China (Taiwan) and in Turkey.

In July 1967 the arrival at Long Binh of the 45th Medical Company (Air Ambulance), equipped with new, powerful UH-1H's marked the end to the Huey's low engine power propulsion problem. Now the entire fleet of air ambulances had powerful UH-1H's, solving many of the problems caused by high density altitudes, hoist missions, and heavy loads. Also, unlike most of the UH-1D's, the UH-1H's were fully instrumented for flight at night and in poor weather. They proved to be rugged machines, needing comparatively little time for maintenance and repairs. Like the earlier models, the H-models came with skids rather than wheels, to permit landing on marshy or rough terrain.

A number of UH-1Hs were used in the so-called "Nighthawk" configuration, equipped with a either aircraft landing lights or a Xenon search light, as well as either a pintle mounted M134 7.62mm "minigun" or M2 .50 caliber machine gun for use during night interdiction missions. The AH-1G Cobra was often flown on night "Firefly" missions using these UH-1H "Nighthawks" to locate and illuminate targets.

Of the 975 UH-1 helicopters that the Army had on hand as of April 2000, 610 were not flying and 365 were mission capable. Hueys were being used in the Sinai for the multi-national forces observer mission, for training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and at Davison Army Airfield near Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to transport Pentagon officials, among others. Some Hueys were also still being use in Germany, at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and in many Reserve component units.

There had been no overhauls on UH-1 airframes since the early 1990s, when repairs were stopped due to the expected retirement of the 1,500 Hueys the Army then had on hand. The T-53 engines were still being repaired until 1996, when an independent contractor was supposed to take over the program. Delays in that takeover resulted in the 1999 Army program to overhaul the T-53 engines.

Honeywell, an independent contractor, manufactured the T-53 engines. Both Honeywell and AMCOM issued service bulletins regarding the lifetime of critical flight safety parts in the engine. The bulletins addressed issues with the engine's impeller and 16 other rotating parts. Other problems with the UH-1 included the fuel cell, the main rotator trunnion, the tail rotor driveshaft coupling, the vertical fin spar and the 42-degree gearbox.

The Army planned to retire the UH-1 in 2004, but until then units needed the aircraft to conduct training and missions. To meet this need, the Army overhauled 160 T-53 engines for the UH-1 helicopters. T-53 engines to be repaired would be drawn from a pool that was currently grounded. No upgrades to avionics were planned. Repaired UH-1s would be distributed among units on a basis of need, and priority would go to operations such as medical-evacuation units.

The UH-1 fleet was to be retired in FY04 under the Army Aviation Force Modernization Plan and the Hueys would be replaced with UH-60 Blackhawks, which could carry more weight. After retirement the UH-1s were to be moved to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. Following processing, the UH-1s could be disposed of or transferred to other government agencies for further use. Other options for retired UH-1s include public auction and donation to historical organizations.




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