In 1955 the U.S. Army chose Bell Helicopter Company’s Model 204 as its new utility helicopter, the production version receiving the designation HU-1. Though its official nickname was “Iroquois,” and its designation changed to UH-1, the original designation inspired the name by which the helicopter was universally known—the “Huey.”
The type entered naval service in 1964, when the Marine Corps procured the UH-1E version of the Iroquois, accepting 192 examples along with 20 additional TH-1E versions for crew training. The Navy followed suit in 1968 with procurement of 27 HH-1K versions, which were similar to the UH-1E except for a different engine and improved avionics. More advanced versions followed in the ensuing decades, the “Huey” performing a host of missions to include heliborne assault, command and control, search and rescue, medical evacuation, support of operations in the Antarctic as part of Operation Deep Freeze, light utility, and training. The latest iteration of the combat proven type is the UH-1Y, which first deployed in 2009 and will serve Marine Corps squadrons into the middle of the 21st century.
It was over the jungles of Vietnam that the “Huey” earned its reputation. Armed with machine guns and rockets and capable of airlifting fourteen troops in its box-like fuselage, the UH-1 proved an ideal platform for the heliborne assaults that came of age in that war. The small size of the “Huey” also made it ideal for landing in constricted areas or hovering overhead for expeditious evacuation of combat casualties, with Army, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft evacuating 378,000 casualties between 1965 and 1969. In addition, in 1967 the aircraft was chosen to outfit Helicopter Attack Squadron Light (HAL) 3, the first squadron of its type in Naval Aviation history. Nicknamed the “Seawolves,” HAL-3 served in concert with SEALS and Navy patrol boats interdicting the enemy in the waters of the Mekong Delta. Their “Hueys” were heavily armed, with machine guns, rockets, mini guns, and occasionally a 40mm grenade launcher. During a one year period alone, the squadron flew 34,746 hours, expending 17.5 million rounds of 7.62 mm /.50 caliber machine gun ammunition, 96,700 rockets, and 32,300 grenades.
The museum displays two examples of the famed “Huey.” A HH-1K (Bureau Number 157188) last served operationally in HAL-5, a Naval Reserve squadron, whose members painted it to resemble a Vietnam era HAL-3 aircraft prior to its transfer to the museum in 1989. An NUH-1E (Bureau Number 151268) is on outdoor static display.
Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Company
Dimensions: Length: 53 ft.; Height: 12 ft., 7 ¼ in.; Rotor Diameter: 44 ft.
Weights: Empty: 6,000 lb.; Gross: 9,500 lb.
Power Plant: One 1,400 horsepower Lycoming T53-L-13turboshaft engine
Performance: Maximum Speed: 161 M.P.H. at sea level; Service Ceiling: 21,000 ft.; Range: 286 miles
Armament: Attack version carried 7.62mm machine guns and rocket pods
Crew: Two pilots and two gunners in attack version