The Bell Iroquois, or the Huey, as it's better known, has been the most popular light utility helicopter ever produced. Some variant has been operated by the military in about 60 nations.
Bell produced two major versions of the UH-1 - the single engine Models 204 and 205 and the twin engine Models 212 and 412. Although both were UH-1s, there were enough differences to warrant considering them two separate aircraft.
The H-1 series began as the Bell XH-60 to meet an Army requirement for a utility helicopter for front-line evacuation of casualties, for general utility missions and for instrument training. The XH-40 flew in late 1956 and the first production model, the HU-1A Iroquois went to the Army June 30, 1959.
In 1962, aircraft designations were standardized and the Huey HU-1 series became the UH-1 series. Within that series, the Model 204 had suffixes A, B, C, E, F, K, L, M and P. The Model 205 carried either the D or H suffix. 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. The name Huey derived from the pre-1962 designation.
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 U.S. military orders far exceeded the initial 50 from Canada. The first American UH-1H entered service in 1970 and the Canadian version, designated CUH-1N, in the following year.
While the UH-1N shared the fuselage of the UH-1N, the primary difference was in the engines. The Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3 Turbo Twin-Pac power plant provided 1,800 horsepower for the UH-1N, versus the Lycoming T53-L-13 in the UH-1N, which provided 1,400 horsepower.
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 4mph with the UH-1H faster at 130mph. 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 first three major variations of the Iroquois belonged to the Model 204 series, which has a 44-foot diameter rotor. Deliveries of the HU-1A with a T53-L-1A engine began June 30, 1959, for utility transport and casualty evacuation with six seats or two stretchers. Following that model was the HU-1B with the 960-horsepower T53-L-5 engine, which accommodated eight passengers on three stretchers. It became the UH-1B when the HU designation changed to UH. This model served in Vietnam in various roles including armed support. Southeast Asia was the proving ground for the gunship and demonstrated its value and potential. The last in the Model 204 series was the UH-1C, which had a 1,000-horsepower T-53-L-11 engine.
Not long after deliveries of the original HU-1s began, Bell flew the first of a larger Iroquois, which they designated Model 205. It had the same engine as the UH-1C, but a larger 48-foot diameter rotor and could accommodate up to 14 passengers. The Army bought many of these, which were designated as the UH-1D. Bell also sold them with the UH-1N, with its more powerful engine, the T-53-L-13 with 1,400 horsepower. Deliveries began in 1967 and ultimately more than 600 were transferred to South Vietnam and 32 to Cambodia. Other versions of the main variants included the UH-1E for the Marines as an assault support helicopter, which Bell developed from the UH-1B. In 1963, the Air Force ordered the UH-1F, a 1,100-horsepower General Electric T58-GE-3 engine for use in a support role. The Air Force also obtained the UH-1P for psychological warfare in Vietnam.
The Navy HH-1K air-sea-rescue model was based on the UH-1E. They also obtained training and utility versions designated TH-1L and UH-1L. The UH-1M Army helicopters were equipped for night weapons firing and the Air Force ordered 30 HH-1Hs for rescue purposes. Clearly, this versatile helicopter family met a great variety of mission taskings for all the U.S. military services. The first Huey helicopter assigned to Hurlburt Field was the UH-1P, which was among the 16 types of aircraft assigned here in 1969. Although the Huey helicopters were reliable aircraft, military flying has always been and will always be a hazardous operation. A UH-1P flying near Eglin Air Force Base struck a power line and crashed, killing all five crewmembers, Sept. 2, 1969.
Three weeks later, Sept. 24, Detachment #1 activated under the 1st SOW as a separate UH-1P helicopter unit. It became the 317th Special Operations Squadron April 15, 1970. The following September 16, the first UH-1N student class arrived at Hurlburt Field and UH-1P training ended. By then, the 317th had seven new UH-1Ns and two days later they received two more.
The 1st SOW embarked on UH-1N operations and training which spanned a 15-year period. The final Hurlburt training class concluded June 23, 1971, when that function was transferred to the Military Airlift Command at Hill AFB, Utah. From then on, UH-1N crews concentrated on proficiency training at home and on exercises which were a "way of life" for the Huey people and the rest of the wing. A partial listing of these exercises include: Cabin Light IV at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1971; Brave Shield I at Fort Stewart, Wash., in 1972; Exotic Dancer V, with ship-to-shore airlifts by the UH-1Ns in 1972; Flintlock V in Denmark in 1972; Brass Key II, at Fort Bragg in 1973; Green Flag I at Hurlburt Field in 1976; Blue Flag 77-3 and Bold Eagle 78 on Eglin Reservation in 1977; Solid Shield 80 in the Southeast U.S. in 1980; Red Flag 81-1 at Nellis AFB, Nev., in 1980; Ocean Venture 81 in the Caribbean area in 1981; and Granite Scar II on the Eglin Reservation in 1983.
While five UH-1Ns were deployed to Nellis AFB for Exercise Red Flag 81-1, a major fire occurred Nov. 21, 1980 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Early in the morning after night operations, the 20th Special Operations Squadron crews returned to quarters in Las Vegas. Alerted to a call for assistance, they immediately returned to Nellis. Less than 45 minutes after notification, the crews were airborne to the fire scene. They operated from the hotel parking lot and transported firemen, rescue squads, paramedics and medical and rescue supplies to the hotel roof and removed people trapped by the fire. In 13 hours involving 31 shuttles, members of the 20th SOS saved five lives by evacuating critically injured people. After the fire was controlled, they removed 56 bodies from the hotel roof.
The 317th SOS inactivated April 30, 1974. A month earlier, the last two 1st SOW UH-1N helicopters of the squadron had been transferred to K.I. Sawyer AFB, Mich. This left the wing without any Hueys, or a squadron home for the aircraft. But that was rectified with the activation of the 20th SOS Jan. 1, 1976.
The 20th inherited one UH-1N, which had arrived at Hurlburt Aug. 28, 1975; however, it was the end of June before the second Huey arrived. Three more joined the 20th before the end of the 1976 to give the squadron half of its six authorized UH-1Ns. It took almost a year and a half for Hurlburt to get all six Hueys since the sixth didn't arrive until the second quarter of 1977. Those six were the complement of UH-1N helicopters for the 20th SOS and 1st SOW until one crashed at sea in 1984 and the rest of the force transferred Oct. 1, 1985.
Rapid worldwide mobility has been a hallmark of the 1st SOW. Modifying aircraft for in-flight refueling providing the wing AC- and MC-130s deployment capability limited only by crew endurance. However, the short range, low-speed helicopters realistically couldn't deploy inter continentally even with in-flight refueling. This required a new tactic, nicknamed Coronet Chopper, which the wing perfected in the early 1980s. It involved airlifting the UH-1Ns in large cargo aircraft, such as the C-5. By dismantling the Hueys to a certain extent, a C-5 could carry four anywhere in the world in a minimum amount of time, or a C-141B could rapidly deploy three.
In 1983, the 1st SOW and UH-1Ns embarked on their most visible mission - Operation Bahamas and Turks (Operation BAT). The objective was to curb illegal drug smuggling from South American through the Bahamas into south Florida.
Two helicopters were deployed to the islands for what stretched into a period of almost two a half years, from May 1983 to September 1985. The UH-1Ns airlifted police and drug enforcement agents where needed to apprehend drug runners. In January 1984, one of the BAT aircraft suffered a two-engine failure and crashed at sea, killing three 20th SOS crewmen.
While Operation BAT placed a severe strain on squadron resources, it provided excellent, high-stress training. Also on the positive side, the 20th SOS flew more than 1,100 sorties resulting in the capture of more than $1.5 billion in drugs, vessels, vehicles, aircraft, equipment and weapons.
With the transfer of the Operation BAT mission Sept. 30, 1985, the wing lost of its UH-1N helicopter force. This left the 1st SOW with HH-53H Pave Low II helicopters, which had superior capabilities to meet special operations taskings.
UH-1P TAIL #64-15493 HISTORY The Air Force received this UH-1 on August 19, 1965. The aircraft saw assignments at Minot AFB, North Dakota, Tuy Hoa and Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam and MacDill AFB, Florida. In June 1972 the helicopter was converted to the P-model for psychological warfare purposes.
During the Air Commando Reunion on October 11, 1981, the 1st SOW dedicated the UH-1P in the Air Park. Col. John Roberts, former 20th SOS commander, spoke at the dedication. This aircraft represents the Huey missions at Hurlburt Field.
Point Of Contact 1st Special Operations Wing
212 Lukasik Ave. Suite 246
Hurlburt Field, FL 32544-5271
DSN 579-6507 or (850) 884-6507