Blades, blades, everywhere there’s blades

Photo: LockheedMartin.com/CodeOne

Photo: LockheedMartin.com/CodeOne

The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne helicopter gunship featured a four-blade rigid main rotor, a four-blade anti-torque tail rotor, and a three-bladed pusher propeller. Powered by a 3,925 hp General Electric T64 engine, the Cheyenne had a top speed of 253 mph at sea level, which is blistering for a chopper of any make.

The AH-56 featured fixed wings, a tandem-seated pilot and co-pilot/gunner, and could carry 2,100 pounds of ordnance, usually listed as 2,010 rounds of 30mm ammunition, 780 rounds of 40mm ammunition, two FFAR pods holding thirty-eight rockets each, and six BGM-71 TOW antitank missiles.

First flown in 1961, only 10 prototypes were made before the Cheyenne program was canceled by the Secretary of the Army on 9 August 1972. The Vietnam drawdown and fact the chopper used legacy analog systems while the Pentagon was looking at going all-digital– which would have meant even more R&D– didn’t help its case. Likewise, Congress needed to allocate money to the Air Force’s A-10 program and the Marines’ AV-8A Harrier program, both in their infancy, and with three CAS initiatives going on at the same time, one had to be sacrificed.

Four still exist, all in Army Museums:

*No. 2 66-8827 is on display at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
*No. 5 66-8830 is stored at the Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.
*No. 6 66-8831 is on display at Fort Campbell.
*No. 7 66-8832 is on display at the Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker

Many of the technologies pioneered by the Cheyenne made their way on to other platforms, including the US Army’s current AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

Top speed of the AH-64? 182 mph.

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