UH-1H Iroquois “Huey” Helicopter

Vietnam UH-1H “Huey” Helicopter

From 1965 to 1973, the Bell UH-1, officially named “Iroquois” was the most common utility helicopter used in Vietnam. The “Huey” nickname stuck thanks to her early “HU-1” designation (it was later redesignated to UH-1 with the normalization of 1962). This particular helicopter is a “Slick”, used for troop carrying. It is not fitted with external weapons to save weight and is only armed with the M60s used by the door gunners. These aircraft operated in the hostile environment of Vietnam for almost a decade.

This Huey served in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, performing troop insertions and extractions, medical evacuations, helicopter crew recoveries, smoke, sniffer psyops, and firefly missions. Based at Cu Chi, it survived multiple small arms attacks and one RPG strike. It was returned to service in 2011 to operate as a “Thank You” to Vietnam War Veterans and has completed over 180 missions since then.

Many Vietnam Veterans describe the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter as the “sound of our war”. Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association records show that 7,013 Hueys survived in the Vietnam War, totaling 7,531,955 flight hours. Over 90,000 patients were airlifted (over half of them Americans). The average time between field wound to hospitalization was less than one hour. During the Korean and World War II wars this time was measured primarily in days, not hours. The utilization of helicopters dramatically increased warfare survival rates.

The “Big Picture”

Over 10% of all combat and combat support deaths in Vietnam occurred in helicopter operations, a combined total of 6,175 (2,202 pilots, 2,704 aircrew and 1,269 passengers). About 86% of these causalities were U.S. Army. In addition to the human cost, the helicopter “casualties” of the war were staggering. A total of 11,800 helicopters of all types served in Vietnam. Approximately 5,000 helicopters were destroyed there, of which all but 500 were U.S. Army.

Armament

Primary Armament:

Typical armament included two M-60D machine guns on fixed door mounts manned by the Crew Chief on the left and a Door Gunner on the right. The M-60D is a 7.62mm NATO caliber weapon with a cyclic rate of fire of 600 to 700 rounds per minute. The large cans below the M-60’s held roughly 2,000 rounds of linked 7.62mm ammunition and were a typical field modification replacing the authorized can which held 500 rounds.

Secondary Armament:

Each Crew Chief and Door Gunner also carried a secondary weapon, usually an M-16 rifle but sometimes more exotic types. Because pilots were not issued M-16’s, they often carried other unauthorized weapons slung over their armored seats for personal protection. Crew Chiefs and Door Gunners always carried colored smoke grenades, often as you see them here on the seat posts. These were used to mark targets for the Gunships when receiving hostile fire or to mark landing zones (LZ’s).

Body Armor

All aircrew were issued body armor, jokingly referred to as “chicken plates”. If a Crew Chief or Door Gunner chose not to wear it, the chicken plate was often stowed under his seat for protection from enemy weapons fire from below.

Crews

In Vietnam the UH-1 had a crew of four: Aircraft Commander (A/C), Co-pilot or “Peter Pilot,” Crew Chief (C/E) and Door Gunner.

The Aircraft Commander, as his name implied, was in command of the aircraft at all times while on a mission. The Co-pilot assisted the Aircraft Commander in the air and flew the aircraft as needed. Most pilots began their tour in Vietnam as a Co-pilot and advanced to Aircraft Commander as they gained experience. In many units, the Aircraft Commander and Crew Chief were assigned a specific aircraft and Co-pilots generally rotated among unit aircraft. In addition, the Crew Chief was the only crew member personally responsible for maintaining his aircraft. The Crew Chief and his Door Gunner would work many hours before and after each mission maintaining their helicopter. Besides aiding the Crew Chief on the ground, the Door Gunner also assisted in loading and unloading the aircraft and manned the right door gun while flying. As with the Co-pilots, they usually rotated among unit aircraft.

Missions and Loads

The Huey slick’s primary mission was carrying infantry into combat, commonly called “combat assaults” which involved a “package” of up to 8 or 10 slicks carrying the infantry, supported by two or three gunships and monitored by a Command and Control slick (Charlie/ Charlie) orbiting overhead. During combat assaults, depending on density altitude and the strength of the particular aircraft, the UH-1 could carry 6 to 8 American infantrymen or 10 or more Vietnamese (due to their smaller size and weight). Other missions included supplying replacement personnel, food, water, ammunition and necessities to infantry units in the field or at forward bases. Hueys were also often utilized as Medevac helicopters, transporting wounded soldiers to safety and medical treatment.

Specifications

Engine
Lycoming T53L13
Engine Rating
1400 SHP
Main Rotor
2 Blade Semi-Rigid 48′ Diameter 21″ Chord
Tail Rotor
2 Blade Semi-Rigid 8′ 6″ Diameter 8.4″ Chord
Internal Fuel
209 Gallon Capacity
Maximum Gross Weight
9500 Lbs
Empty Weight
5210 Lbs
Typical Payload
2200 Lbs (in addition to fuel and crew of 4)
Maximum Cruise Speed
120 Knots
Maximum Endurance
2.4 Hours
Cabin Volume
220 Cu.Ft.
External Cargo Capacity
4000 Lbs
Fuselage Length
41′ 11″
Height to Top of Rotor
11′ 9″
Width at Stabilizer Bar
9′ 13/32″
Climate Tolerance
65 Degrees F to + 65 Degrees F

Awards

History

Bell Model UH-1H Iroquois “ Huey”
s/n 65-09961
Served in Vietnam War during 1967-1970
Army units this aircraft deployed with in Vietnam:
USARV Flight Detachment Jun ’67 – Jul ’67
25th Infantry Division B Company: Nov ’68 – Apr ‘69
118th Assault Helicopter Company: Oct ‘69
68th Assault Helicopter Company: Nov ’69 – Oct ‘70
165th Transportation Company: Mar ’70 – Dec ‘70

Combat Flight Incidents

Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 65-09961
The Army purchased this helicopter 0666
Total flight hours at this point: 00000983
Date: 12/03/1967
Unit: 355 AVN
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was REPAIRED IN THEATER
This was a Recon mission for Unarmed Recon
While Enroute this helicopter was Unknown at 0010 feet and 100 knots.
South Vietnam
Helicopter took 2 hits from:
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM)
The helicopter was hit in the Passenger Cargo Section
Systems damaged were: UNK
The helicopter Continued Flight.
The aircraft continued and accomplished all mission objectives.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: UH1P2, 74314 ()

Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 65-09961
The Army purchased this helicopter 0666
Total flight hours at this point: 00000983
Date: 12/15/1967
Unit: 355 AVN
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was REPAIRED IN THEATER
This was a Recon mission for Unarmed Recon
While Enroute this helicopter was Unknown at 0150 feet and 080 knots.
South Vietnam
Helicopter took 7 hits from:
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM)
The helicopter was hit in the Equipment Section
Systems damaged were: ENGINE, MAIN ROTOR SYS
The helicopter made a Forced Landing. Aircraft was capable of one time flight.
The aircraft was diverted or delayed after completing some mission objectives.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: UH1P2, 74488 ()

Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 65-09961
The Army purchased this helicopter 0666
Total flight hours at this point: 00001557
Date: 09/05/1968
Unit: HHD 44 ENG GP
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was REPAIRED IN THEATER
This was a Rescue and Recovery mission for Medical Evacuation
While in PickUp Zone this helicopter was Landing at 0006 feet and 000 knots.
South Vietnam
Helicopter took 9 hits from:
Explosive Weapon; Non-Artillery launched or static weapons containing explosive charges. (RPG)
The helicopter was hit in the Right Side
Systems damaged were: COMM SYS, ELECTRICAL SYS, STRUCTURE
The helicopter Continued Flight.
The aircraft continued and accomplished all mission objectives.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: LNNF, JSIDR (Lindenmuth New Format Data Base. Joint Services Incident Damage Report.)

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9 Comments

  1. I am owner curator of 68 16425 UH1H. Project 425 is a mobile static display and we have logged over 200 missions in South East Florida. 425 also served the 25th Inf. War Lords company “B” in Chu Lai for a whopping 1,970 hrs.. We have reseated 2 of her original pilots that logged several hundred hours ea. in her and recently reseated the crew chief that crewed her for a year. Please feel free to contact me and I can share our news letter with you. No Hill Mike michaelcarroll147@comcast.net

  2. Wow! this is awesome, my pops don’t talk much of Vietnam, but we know that he was a door gunner and later a crew chief. He just turn 75 yesturday. We love him so much.

  3. Chuck daniels

    I’m a former Huey crew chief ,Wa Natl. Guard. trying to determine what the cabin noise level is in a huey. Thabks for any assistance.

    • To Chuck Daniels:

      As a grunt with the 1st Cavalry, I rode in the open doorway of Hueys on many combat assaults and now suffer from significant hearing loss in my right ear, the one closest to the door gunner. I found an Army report on noise levels of common Army equipment that indicates a noise level of 102.9 decibels in the cabin of a Huey, and I think that is measured with the doors closed. By comparison, if you used an M60 machine gun, you experienced 155 decibels. You can find the report by searching for “Noise levels of common army equipment”. See pages 8, 9, and 13 for relevant data.

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  6. aboard UH1 in 1990 for an emergency response on a dam where a nuclear gauge was crushed by a heavy vehicle.
    a survey of the gauge and immediate site indicated the Am241 source was intact in it’s capsule. left the site in
    complete darkness after confirming no radioactive contamination and fly back to airport safely over the mt. tops.

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  8. Love Lol Bear.

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