Though early versions of Bell’s Huey helicopter first appeared in 1956, it wasn’t until 1962 that the rotary aircraft gained recognition during its service in the Vietnam War. The Huey’s original Army designation was the HU-1 (Helicopter Utility-1) Iroquois, though no one referred to it as the Iroquois., and it became known simply as the Huey. Later, the designation system was modified and the same helicopter became the UH-1, though it retained its nickname of Huey. It evolved from a troop transport into a medevac helicopter and then into an assault helicopter. (Unarmed Hueys used for troop transport were known as “slicks.”) Though essential to the US military’s Vietnam War strategy of taking the fight to the enemy using aircraft, by 1973 more than 2,000 Hueys had been lost in combat or due to accidents. Overall, the US military considered the Huey a success in its mission to provide troop support using a light aircraft with accurate firepower.
Eventual modifications of the Huey included an expanded main cabin and a larger engine to accommodate additional weight. The UH-1H model featured a single Textron Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft engine that generated 1,400 HP. The rotor diameter was 48 feet. The maximum speed of the UH-1H was 127 mph. That version of the Huey had a range of 276 nautical miles.
Bell rolled out the first twin-engine Huey in 1970, the UH-1N, and it quickly became the workhorse of the United States Marine Corps. Though the helicopter had two engines, the UH-1N was slower than the older, single-engine UH-1H model. Bell’s next generation attack helicopter, the AH-1G Huey Cobra, known simply as the “Cobra,” incorporated the existing Huey engine, rotors, and other parts but the profile was narrower and featured tandem seating for the two-person crew. It also gained additional firepower.
Though the United States military no longer uses the UH-1 Huey helicopter, many countries around the world do. The Philippine Air Force lent the filmmakers of “Apocalypse Now” several Hueys for the scene “Ride of the Valkyries” which renewed the helicopter’s image as a Vietnam War icon.