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Flightline Friday: Early Vietnam Helo Operations September 22, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
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This is a really excellent video find from December 1963, featuring very tired old Piasecki H-21 “Shawnee” (aka the Flying Banana) and brand new (if more than a bit underpowered) Hueys of the UH-1A and UH-1B models.

There is some excellent footage of very rare early Huey attack model setups, including fixed forward firing M1919 .30 cal machine guns of WWII vintage mounted on the landing skids, and the first attempts at mounting rockets on the Huey design.  The UH-1B came from the factory with the XM-6 armament subsystem, which included dual M-60 machine guns on each side of the aircraft in trainable mounts.  This was a vast improvement over the fixed machine guns of the UH-1A.  Also discussed is the original US Army air assault unit in South Vietnam, the Utility Tactical Transport Company.  At this time, Hueys were used entirely as attack birds or for medevac.  The stretched UH-1D capable of carrying 9-11 troops would not enter service in Vietnam until the 1st Air Cav arrived in numbers in mid-1965.

The UH-1A was always badly underpowered*, with an armament load of fixed gun and dual 8-shot rocket stacks, they could barely manage 80-85 mph, which allowed even the lumbering H-21s to “race” ahead of them.  This problem was solved by the UH-1B, which had a more powerful engine, allowing the Hueys much better speed to escort the Shawnees, but the problem repeated itself once the UH-1D and UH-1H entered service.  The slicks were again much faster than their escorts, weighted down with heavy loads of weapons and ammo in very draggy mounts.  This problem was initially solved by late B model and then Charlie model Hueys being equipped with still more powerful engines, but was ultimately dealt with by the introduction of the AH-1 Cobra in late 1967.

There is also demonstration of early tactics among both the troop carrying and the attack helos.  It is rather amusing to watch discussion of basic tactics which were described as being so effective the VC had no response to them – well, you could say, they figured out plenty of responses as the war went along.  The very simple tactics described in this video would be replaced by ever more sophisticated ones as the war went along, but the ever-resourceful Vietnamese were almost always a match for Yankee ingenuity, finding their own responses to evolving American methods.

There is a great deal of rare footage in this video, covering a critical phase of the War in Southeast Asia as combat became more and more Americanized – just as certain elements of the US military establishment desperately wanted:

 

*- UH-1A had a little more than half the horsepower of the later H, E, L, and M models.

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Comments

1. Tim - September 22, 2017

We’ve been watching Ken Burns “Vietnam War” this week. I think he’s been fair to LBJ so far. We’ll see how Nixon gets treated next week.

It brings back memories of my childhood when all this insanity disrupted our family and faith. I was in Catholic school for grades 1- 4, then the faith was bagged and I was missing in action until the mid 90’s. Didn’t get confirmed until I was 38 years old in the traditional rite by an FSSP priest…..blessing in disguise? If I could be brought back, anyone can be. God is good.


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