The UH-1 Iroquois helicopter was developed and manufactured from 1956 thru 1986 by Bell Helicopter. The Iroquois was initially designed when the US Army realized a need for both a medical evacuation and a utility helicopter. Bell was among the 20 companies who submitted designs and was ultimately awarded the contract. The initial flight for the UH-1 took place in October of 1956 and production started shortly thereafter. The Iroquois was the first turbine-powered helicopter produced for the United States military with close to 16,000 being produced worldwide since.
Bell’s UH-1 first saw combat during the Vietnam War. The aircraft was originally designated as the HU-1, which eventually led to the aircraft’s nickname – Huey.
US Marine Corps
The US Marine Corps hosted a competition in 1962, in an effort to choose a replacement for their Cessna 0-1 (a fixed-wing aircraft) and their Kaman OH-43D helicopter. The Iroquois won the competition and modifications were made to meet the Corps additional requirements.
US Air Force
The USAF held a similar competition in search for a helicopter that could be used to support the missile bases.
The aircraft had to be capable of incorporating the General Electric T58 turboshaft engine since the Air Force had a large number of these on hand. This particular engine was also utilized in their HH-3 rescue helicopter. Sharing the engine in both aircrafts would result in a significant savings for the USAF. Bell was able to accommodate their request.
The US Navy also secured Iroquois helicopters from the Army. They modified the aircraft for use as a gunship to provide support to their special warfare operations. They equipped the helicopter with special gun mounts and radar altimeters. They were nicknamed ‘Seawolves’. The Seawolves would work as a team alongside the Navy river patrol operations.
Throughout the Vietnam conflict, the UH-1 Hueys were used in various roles.
- Attack or Armed Escort aka Red Team – the helicopters used in this role were equipped with rocket and grenade launchers and machines guns.
- Troop Transport aka Blue Team – Equipped with door gunners but did not have weapon pods as they were mainly used in troop transport and medevac roles.
- Observation Helicopters aka White Team– flying hunter-killer teams
As military tactics evolved throughout the conflict, the teams were discovered to be more effective if they were mixed. This allowed one helicopter to provide more than one role.
Just over 7,000 UH-1 Huey helicopters served during the Vietnam War.
Specifications for the Iroquois Variant UH-1D
- Crew: 1-4
- Capacity: 14 troops, 6 stretchers or a cargo equivalent (3,880 lbs.)
- Maximum Takeoff Weight: 9,500 lbs.
- Maximum Speed: 135 miles per hour
- Range: 315 miles
- Climbing Rate: 1,755 feet per minute
Armament for the UH-1D would vary, but often include any combination of the following:
- 2×7.62mm M60 machine guns (or)
- 2×7.62mm GAU-17/A machine gun
- 2×17-round or 19-round 70mm rocket pods
- 2×7.62mm Rheinmetall MG3
- 2x.303 Browning Mk II
End of Production
Several variants of the UH-1 Iroquois helicopter – the Huey - were produced throughout its 30 year production run, some which are still utilized today by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in ongoing drug and narcotic raids in Afghanistan.