UH-1 Iroquois (Huey)
The last UH-1 Huey, tail number 74-22478, made its final flight as a U.S.Army operated aircraft Dec. 15, 2016. This was the very last UH-1, one of the "Dirty Dozen", to be proudly flown over southern New Mexico before it was transferred to the Louisiana State Police, where it will continue to serve the public with honor and dignity. This particular aircraft, the UH-1, 74-22478, was one of the last produced by Bell Helicopter for the U. S. Army. It rolled off the assembly line in early 1976 and was accepted by the Army. This particular aircraft served the United States Army admirably for 42 years. Following the Huey's final flight it was then transferred through the U. S. Army's Law Enforcement Support Office to the Louisiana State Police where it will continue to serve.
The UH-1 started its career as a replacement for the Bell H-13 "Sioux" used primarily during the Korean conflict. The H-13 demonstrated the utility of the helicopter in combat, saving multiple servicemen during the conflict. Although it proved useful, the H-13 had many shortcomings including range and payload deficiencies. In 1952 the U. S. Army developed the requirements for a turbine-powered helicopter with extended range and increased payload for medical evacuation and utility transport requirements. Bell Helicopter designed what would be first designated as the HU-1 Iroquois, and in true aviator fashion was simply called "Huey" by its operators.
The UH-1 became the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter military service in 1960 where, through the innovation and advancement of the capability, it revolutionized warfare. Shortly thereafter it was introduced to its iconic combat role in Vietnam. Over the next 16 years more than 16,000 UH-1s were produced with some 7,000 seeing combat action in Vietnam. The other services saw the utility of the UH-1 and quickly adopted the aircraft. In all, this revolutionary aircraft was operated by all four services and over 35 countries. The UH-1 quickly evolved and was modified to fill a variety of roles from troop transport, medevac, command and control and armed gunship roles.
More importantly, it revolutionized the U. S. Army combat operations by providing the ability to rapidly mobilize large concentrations of troops en masse. This ability forever changed the face of warfare and gave a new name of "Air Mobile" to the concept of operations. It would serve in that role for several more years seeing combat once again during the invasion of Grenada and limited use during Gulf War I as a medevac platform. Finally, age and performance limitations would see it replaced by the UH-60 in most active Army and National Guard units. By 2006 almost all had left the inventory. The only aircraft retained by the U.S. Army belonged to Army Test and Evaluation Center. Officially, 11 were retained, three at Redstone Arsenal, four at Yuma Proving Ground and four at White Sands Missile Range, where they would serve the country's needs for test support assets.
The remarkable Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) was the quintessential all-purpose military helicopter for over three decades. It was been used by all four US services, and international forces, in missions ranging from mountain rescue to troop transport, and from anti-armor to anti-submarine warfare. The Huey got its distinctive nickname from its original Army designation, the HU-1. It was later redesignated UH-1, under the unified tri-service designation scheme in 1962.
Bell produced two major versions of the UH-1, the single engine Models 204 and 205. Also important were the twin engine Models 212 and 412. Although both were UH-1s, there were enough differences to warrant considering them two separate aircraft. In 1962, aircraft designations were standardized and the Huey HU-1 series became the UH-1 series. Within that series, the Model 204 subvariants were the UH-1A, B, C, E, F, K, L, M and P. The Model 205 subvariants were the UH-1D, H, U, V, and X. The Model 212 was the UH-1N, the primary 1st Special Operations Wing Huey, while the Model 412 was the 212 with a four-blade rather than two-blade motor. A four bladed UH-1 variant, similar to the Model 412 was developed as the UH-1Y.
The single engine Models 204 and 205 were skid-equipped helicopters with a single, two-blade, all-metal, anti-torque tail rotor mounted on the left side of the tailboom. The all-metal, semi-monocoque fuselage could accommodate two crewmen and seven passengers in the Model 204 and two crewmen and 11 passengers in the Model 205. They also differed in fuselage and rotor dimensions, engines and performance. They served in gunship, casualty evacuation, search and rescue, vertical envelopment-attack transport, antisubmarine warfare and general utility roles during their long service life.
Bell developed the Model 212, or UH-1N, for the Canadian market, but US military orders far exceeded the initial 50 from Canada. The first American UH-1N entered service in 1970 and the Canadian version, designated CUH-1N, in the following year.
Compared to the H-model, the N-model was longer at 57 feet, 3 ¼ inches, compared to 44 feet, 7 inches and slightly taller at 14 feet, 4 ¾ inches to 13 feet, 5 inches for the UH-1N. The main rotor diameter on the UH-1N was only 2 ¼ inches wider than the UH-1H with its rotor diameter of 48 feet. The Model 212 weighed 5,549 pounds empty and 11,200 loaded, compared to 5,090 and 9,500 pounds respectively for the Model 205. Maximum speeds for the two aircraft only varied 4 mph with the UH-1H faster at 130 mph. It also had the longer range at 357, compared to 273 miles for the UH-1H. The service ceiling of 17,400 feet for the UH-1N exceeded the UH-1H's 12,700-foot ceiling. Both aircraft were rated for a maximum of 13 people.
The UH-1 Iroquois was used for command and control, medical evacuation, and to transport personnel, equipment and supplies. The most advanced models in the US Army were the UH-1H and the UH-1V. Initially procured in 1959, the Huey was the senior member of the Army's helicopter fleet. The last production aircraft was delivered in 1976. More than 9,000 were produced in 20 years. Considered to be the most widely used helicopter in the world, the Huey was flown by about 40 countries. Evolving through 13 models, the Huey flew millions of flight hours in support of a wide variety of Army missions.
In 1995 the Army's UH-1 Residual Fleet was projected to be approximately 1000 aircraft. The 1998 Aviation Modernization Plan reduced the Residual Fleet to approximately 700 aircraft to be retained through 2015. The 1999 Utility Helicopter Fleet Modernization Analysis recommended a reengine and upgrade for the UH-1 for the LUH (Light Utility Helicopter) mission, with a SLEP (including overhauled T-53 engines) for Strategic Reserve & Residual TDA. The 2000 Aviation Modernization Plan/Aviation Transformation Plan divested the UH-1 completely by the end of FY04, and sustained the current configuration through the divestiture period. Army supported for UH-1 ends after September 2004. Until then support would remains as established.
The Aviation Restructure Initiative or ARI was a comprehensive and complex effort to shape army aviation units affected by the Army's downsizing to render more capable and effective units. The total effects of ARI were to downsize the aviation force, while at the same time enhancing the capability and sustainability of Army aviation units on the battlefield. ARI caused roughly a 40 percent decrease in the number of aircraft, while resulting in roughly a 20 percent reduction in aviation enlisted personnel. Most all OH-58A and C, UH-1, and AH-1 mechanics were displaced by Kiowa Warrior, Blackhawk and Apache modernized systems. The Army's UH-1 fleet had problems that led to approximately 20-25% of the aircraft still flyable as of late 2000. Many of these that were flyable had very few hours until they run out of time and were grounded again. The Army planned to have the entire UH-1 fleet out of the inventory (AD/USAR/ARNG) by the end of FY04.
According to a 21 September 2004 Army News story, fewer than 150 Hueys were flying Army-wide by the end of September 2004, including 60 that belonged to the National Guard. The story also reported that an additional 270 UH-1 were waiting for final disposition at an aviation maintenance facility in Temple, Texas.