Tag Archives: UH-1

Farewell, Carpet Beater

The West Germans saw how the ubiquitous UH-1 Huey was used in Vietnam in the 1960s and decided it needed some of that. Through a licensing deal with Bell and the blessing of the Nixon administration, Dornier began making copies of the UH-1D (Bell 205) stretched-fuselage single-engine 15-seat troop carrier variant in 1968, completing 352 birds for the Bundeswehr by 1981 in addition to four American-made models delivered as a control group. KHD in Oberursel was licensed to make the aircrafts’ Lycoming T53-L-13B 1400 shp turboshaft engines.

Unofficially termed the Teppichklopfer (carpet beater) in German service, they were well-liked and proved reliable. In all, the Heer (Army) operated 212 of the aircraft while the Luftwaffe picked up 132 for SAR and liaison, and the Bundesgrenzschutz (BSG) border guards got 12 of their own for use by their elite counter-terror group.

1991: Soldiers of Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 2 from Hessisch-Lichtenau practice airborne surveillance of large areas in cooperation with Hueys der Heeresflieger in the Höxter area. (Photo: Jan-P. Weisswange/Soldat und Technik)

The Kraut Huey proved to be extremely reliable even in difficult operating conditions. They served not only in Germany and on NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia (IFOR, SFOR, KFOR, and EUFOR) but also in Somalia and in Iraq. (Photo: Bundeswehr)

By the early 2000s, the aircraft were showing their age and were replaced by new NH90 and H145 (Eurocopter EC145) production until just one squadron was flying them for SAR use in dets out of Niederstetten, Nörvenich, and Holzdorf.

Putting a cap on over 2.3 million hours of service across almost 50 years, the last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99 (“Full Metal Jacket” fans?), received a “Goodbye Huey” sunset livery and flew into Bückeburg airfield (Airfield Achum) in June to finish its 10,000-hour lifespan before heading to the German Helicopter Museum (Hubschraubermuseum) there, arriving on June 22.

The last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99, in “Goodbye Huey” livery

The last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99, in “Goodbye Huey” livery

However, the swan song on the Teppichklopfer came this last week, halfway around the world from Germany. You see, in 2014, the Philippine Air Force took possession of 21 donated ex-Bundeswehr UH-1Ds. Long-serving and all over 20 years old at transfer, they were to be upgraded to a “Huey II” standard in a $27M program that never really came to play, and the latter deal was criticized over allegations of kickbacks to high-ranking officials. 

The German Hueys replaced 25 broken-down Vietnam-era UH-1Hs in PI service whose claim to fame was that half of the fleet was used in the filming of Apocalypse Nowalternating fighting rebels with flying in the famous Valkyrie scene.

Nonetheless, as the PAF had other UH-1 models on hand to include a few of those vintage “Hotel” models from the U.S, and commercial Bell 412s, as well as as the boost of donated spare parts from Japan (where the UH-1J was built under license by Fuji Heavy Industries) it has been able to keep their German birds in the air for the past decade, supporting operations throughout the archipelago to fight the local terrorists and conduct relief operations when earthquakes and typhoons struck the archipelago.

Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members exit a helicopter during air assault training at Fort Magsaysay, the Philippines in 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael G. Herrero/Released)

Now, as the PAF is moving to newer rotary aircraft– including Turkish-made Augusta T129 ATAKs, Italian AW109s, and American Sikorsky S-70s, S-76s, and MD 500 Defenders– the age of the Huey is almost over, at least in the PI.

October 13 saw the retirement of the last 10 remaining Dornier UH-1Ds acquired in 2014, as the PAF welcomed aboard five S-70i Black Hawks and four ScanEagle UAS at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

And you think it’s cold where you are, 44 years ago today edition

NHHC Photo: 428-GX-USN 1163442 by PH2R. Beaudet

A UH-1D Iroquois helicopter Antarctic Air Development Squadron Six, VXE-6, outside an ice cave in the edge of the Mount Erebus Ice Tongue. December 7, 1974

Incidentally, the above makes me think of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The Puckered Penguins of VXE-6 supported Antarctic Ops from 1955-99.

Last South East Asia Huey retired from federal service

The Bell Model 204 (prototyped as the XH-40) first flew in 1956 and entered service with the military as the HU-1 (which quickly became “Huey” in milspeak), transitioning to the UH-1 Iroquois designation in 1962, with the first “slick” medevac ships assigned to the 57th Medical Detachment arriving in South Vietnam the same year. With more than 16,000 of these iconic medium lift helicopters built, the Huey became the defacto symbol of the Vietnam conflict.

Enter the obligatory Apocalypse Now- Ride of the Valkyries clip here:

It should be remembered that the last searing image of U.S. forces leaving Saigon in 1975 was centered on a Huey.

Evacuees are helped aboard an Air America helicopter perched on top of a building in Saigon. Photograph: Hugh van Es/REUTERS

Evacuees are helped aboard a CIA/Air America helicopter perched on top of a building in Saigon. Photograph: Hugh van Es/REUTERS

While a number of Hueys remain in service with the military (59 UH-1Ns are used by the Air Force for Minuteman ICBM security, 37 TH-1H trainers are still in the air, the Army keeps 53 UH-1Vs in various Guard units, and of course the Marines have 107 advanced UH-1Y Venoms in regular fleet use), the Pentagon divested themselves of Vietnam-era UH-1s some years ago.

Which brings us to last week’s final flight.

In 2000, a pure former Army Bell UH-1H Huey S/N 69-15533, which clocked 419 hours in 1971 as a “Dolphin” with the 174th Assault Helicopter Company (she took 2 hits during Lam Son 719), was transferred from service with the FBI to the Border Patrol. Then when Border Patrol became part of CBP after 9/11, was transferred to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations’ (AMO) office as N7247J.

N7247J, Bell UH-1H CN 69-15533, At Grand Prairie

N7247J, Bell UH-1H CN 69-15533, in her white and blue AMO livery At Grand Prairie via Airport-Data.com

Parked last week, she has an impressive 6,900 flight hours and 2,466 cycles on her 47-year old airframe that are documented.

The popular 174th Dolphin nose art by WO1 Richard Machina, June 1967. Photo by Jim McDaniel. Huey gunships in the 174th were termed 'Sharks" and carried P-40 Warhawk Flying Tiger-style sharkmouth designs

The popular Vietnam-era 174th Dolphin nose art by WO1 Richard Machina, June 1967. Photo by Jim McDaniel. Huey gunships in the 174th were termed ‘Sharks” and carried P-40 Warhawk Flying Tiger-style sharkmouth designs

She is the last UH-1H in Homeland Security and DOJ long ago moved to more modern platforms, leaving DHS the antiques.

The FBI’s Surveillance and Aviation Section (SAS) flies 120~ aircraft but they are mostly sketchy little Cessnas screened by front companies for opsec purposes and a handful of marked planes for liaison purposes.

As noted in a press release from CBP on the event of N7247J making its final flight in El Paso:

It was a crucial platform for law enforcement operations along the Southwest Border, and over the last decade, was directly involved in the seizure of approximately 4,000 pounds of marijuana. It was also deployed to conduct vital missions during Hurricane Katrina.

During its tenure, AMO crews have operated the UH-1H to perform tactical and utility missions, including the insertion of agents into otherwise inaccessible terrain, external “load” operations, fast rope and rappel, search and rescue, air crew rifle operations, and aerial patrols.

She will be sold as surplus at auction.

A few Super Hueys remain in AMO’s flying museum, refitted with AH-1F Cobra engines, though its not clear if they are Vietnam era or not.

DSC_1897

N7247J, Bell UH-1H SN 69-15533, on her last flight over the wilds of El Paso