06 October 2022

Helicopter Gunship Evolution

Take a "B" or "C" Model UH-1 helicopter. Add rocket pods and mini-guns to the hard points on the side of the bird. Give your Crewchief and Gunner an M-60 machine gun with 1500 rounds of ammunition and seat them where they can provide protective cover to the side and rear of the helicopter. Load that machine with enough fuel to complete the mission, knowing that it will be so overloaded it probably won't hover and you'll be forced to do a "running takeoff"... slide the skids on the ground until the rotors can reach out into undisturbed air to gain enough lift for the old bird to fly.
These first gunships were proof of the value of arming the helicopter, and were the first machines I flew in Viet Nam. Big, slow, and underpowered. So how do we improve the concept?

Use LOTS of existing, proven reliable components but make it smaller, faster, more accurate, and more powerful so it can carry heavier loads.
The "HueyCobra" or just "Cobra". "Snake" to those of us that flew them. This is the machine I transitioned into when we replaced our Huey Gunships. An improved platform in many ways, it had its initial teething problems. The tail rotor and gearbox were stress fatigued and would break off, resulting in a serious center-of-gravity situation. A personal acquaintance had this happen while he was on short final to landing. The resulting crash broke his back resulting in him being paralyzed below the waist. First machines in country had no air conditioning, and sitting beneath that greenhouse was... uncomfortable. They DID have a system that blew hot air down your spine, but on the really HOT days that system just made you feel like a roast in the oven.
When the ARMY started flying "Nap-of-the-earth"...flying the machine just above tree tops at slow, (sometimes walking speeds) to avoid the danger of shoulder-fired enemy missiles, that rounded plexiglass canopy was replaced with flat panes because the curved surface reflected the sun from every angle and flat panes would only reflect it like a mirror from certain angles.
So it wasn't perfect. How do we improve it?

Let's try this thing:

The "Apache".
Tank killer extraordinaire.
The evolution came too late in my career for me to fly one.
But I'm proud to have been part of the process that got us "from here to there"!


Well Seasoned Fool said...

Nothing but respect for those of you who flew rotary of any type.

The Old Man said...

Let the folks peak into the Central Highlands "snake pit" we were in. Do you regret not transitioning to the -64?

Greybeard said...

When the Apache came into the inventory I was flying with a unit that had only UH-1H's Bro, and wasn't afforded the opportunity. Same with the Blackhawk, and yes, I DO wish I had been able to fly that bird. (But 13 years in the Twin-engined BK117 eased that pain somewhat.)

Ed Bonderenka said...

I remember having a cobra swing out from over the trees to cover the road we were on.
Staring into it's rocket tubes was a sobering experience.

Old NFO said...

I think that first picture is actually have a HAL-3 Seawolf Bird! They normally flew cover for the swift boats PBRs and other navy toys.