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Bell Huey UH1 Helicopter
The Bell UH1 Iriquois1 was the classic helicopter of the Vietnam war. It was extremely versatile and powerful and was the first helicopter to be extensively used in armed conflict.
Its excellence was directly related to its engine. It was the first helicopter in the US military forces that used a gas turbine engine2. This had a much better power to weight ratio than the piston engines of previous generations of helicopters, enabling them to carry more weight, faster and higher. They also had extremely thick rotor blades compared to previous generations of helicopters, and this gave them the now characteristic noise of an American helicopter which can be heard for miles and miles if they are flying over 200 feet altitude.
Huey UH1 Configurations
There were three basic configurations of the Huey UH1 during its main conflict:
Slick - This was the most common variation, the out-and-out troop carrier. The only weapons were large machine guns on either side, slung in the door, fired by a gunner when landing in a 'hot drop zone' to drop off, or pick up troops.
Medevac - No guns, big red cross on the side for the VietCong to aim at, frequently covered in blood and bits of people inside. Could carry up to eight wounded soldiers. A welcome sight, no doubt, for the unfortunate American wounded.
Gunship - Lots of guns, lots of ammunition, rockets, everything. The first useful helicopter gunship, quickly superseded by the first true helicopter gunship, the Cobra. This helicopter had thin fuselage, jet plane cockpit layout, no spare room whatsoever and, most importantly, shark mouth paintwork across the front.
Most people will recognise the UH1 from films or television. If a helicopter is going to be blown up it will either be a small bubblecopter or it will be a UH1. The A-Team and Airwolf, American TV shows, must have destroyed several regiments of these distinguished warhorses each3. Several variations on the basic Huey are still in use in various places in the world, although its military role has long since been taken over by updated machines in its home country.
1 Known affectionately as the Huey from the contraction of the UH designator in its name.
2 The same type of engine which powers jet aircraft - a smaller, lighter, more powerful engine than any piston-driven conventional engine, the fuel for which was also considerably cheaper than that for piston-driven aircraft engines.
3 In one episode of the A-Team a Huey was painted silver and became a prototype Russian supercopter, but it was still blown to smithereens.
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