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HUK / HOK / HH-43 Huskie

Kaman faced bankruptcy by early 1949, but in July 1949, the company talked the Navy into buying an improved variant of the K-225. The evaluation of the Kaman K-225 observation helicopter - the model purchased by BuAer in lieu of the earlier K-190 - found the design to be superior in its flight characteristics, particularly in stability, control, and ease of flying. Kaman was awarded a contract in 1950 to design a completely new helicopter for the Navy to be designed to strict military requirements. The initial contract was to produce four test aircraft to fill the US Marine Corps requirement for an Observation Helicopter. Ordered for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corp, it was designated the HUK-1 and HOK-1 respectively. The HOK-1 was the U.S. Marine Corps Observation Helicopter, while the HUK-1 was the U.S. Navy Utility Helicopter.

Since Sikorsky's HO5S-1 was not meeting its expected performance ratings due to the low horsepower output of its engine, BuAer awarded a production contract during 1952 to Kaman Aircraft Company for 46 K-225s as an eventual replacement for the HO5S-1. The Kaman machine would be designated as the HOK-1 (Helicopter, 0-observation, K-Kaman) with the first of them expected to be delivered to the Marine Corps during 1954. The U.S. Air Force also acquired a few similar helicopters designated as the H-43A Huskie. The first flight took place on 21 April 1953 and production continued until 1958.

The HOK-1 had two side-by-side main rotor shafts with a two-bladed rotor attached to each shaft. The blades intermeshed and turned in opposite directions. Four people could be carried : pilot, copilot, and two passengers. The Pratt and Whitney R-1340-48 engine was installed behind the cockpit/cabin and produced 600 horsepower. The left side of the cockpit plexiglass bubble opened to allow loading of two litters one above the other, fore and aft in the cockpit ; however, the copilot's seat and flight controls had to be removed. The actual weights, as the aircraft eventually evolved, amounted to 4,334 pounds empty with a maximum allowable of 5,995 pounds. Maximum sea level airspeed was restricted to 88 knots.

In 1956, an HOK-1 was tested with a Lycoming T53 turbine engine. The considerable performance improvement lead to the development of the H-43B, first flown in 1958. It was also designated the OH-43 Observation helicopter (after 1962), UH-43: Utility Helicopter (after 1962), HH-43 Rescue Helicopter, and USMC OH-43D. The most common variant, the HH-43B was used primarily for crash rescue and aircraft fire-fighting. The HH-43F version was also used in Vietnam to rescue downed airmen until the HH-3 replaced it.

The H-43 Huskie [not "Husky"] was manufactured by Kaman Aircraft Corporation in Bloomfield, Connecticut. The "Huskie" was used primarily for crash rescue and aircraft fire-fighting. It was in use with the U.S. Navy when delivery of the H-43As to the USAF Tactical Air Command began in November 1958. Delivery of the -B series began in June 1959.

By the end of 1960, the Air Rescue Service (ARS) was a skelton command consisting of three squadrons and 1,450 personnel. It continued to provide worldwide support in missions involving commercial/military aviation or shipping disasters, and emergency disaster relief. At home the ARS supported the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's fledgling space program and assumed the local base rescue (LBR) mission with the new HH-43 -- a small, lightweight rescue helicopter of the type called for by Operation Wring Out.

In mid-1962, the USAF changed the H-43 designation to HH-43 to reflect the aircraft's rescue role. As aerial commitment in South Vietnam grew, it quickly became clear that a specialized helicopter designed for search and rescue was needed. The Air Force used the HH-43 Huskie, the first such helicopter employed in Vietnam. As losses mounted, the equipment and units in place were deemed to be inadequate, and the mission was reevaluated. It was at this time that CSAR really began to find its legs. HH-43 helicopters were refitted with armor plating, door guns, and additional fuel tanks to increase their range; and were soon augmented by the arrival of the much more capable HH-3 Jolly Green Giant.

The final USAF version was the HH-43F with engine modifications for improved performance. Some -Fs were used in Southeast Asia as "aerial fire trucks" and for rescuing downed airmen in North and South Vietnam. Huskies were also flown by other nations including Iran, Colombia, and Morocco.

A Huskie on rescue alert could be airborne in approximately one minute. It carried two rescuemen/fire-fighters and a fire suppression kit hanging beneath it. It often reached crashed airplanes before ground vehicles arrived. Foam from the kit plus the powerful downwash air from the rotors were used to open a path to trapped crash victims to permit their rescue.

A 1,000-pound kit was developed at Wright-Patterson AFB to provide quick aid in fighting aircraft crash fires. The tank contained 83 gals. of water and foam but when this mixture reached the air at the nozzle, it expanded to more than eight times its volume to produce about 690 gallons of fire-fighting foam. The kit could be picked up from its trailer in a cargo sling by an HH-43 crash-rescue helicopter and could be lifted to the fire site. A heater was mounted on the trailer to prevent the tank contents from freezing when on "ready alert" status at an airbase in cold weather.



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