The UH-1, or Huey, is one of the most recognized aircraft of the Vietnam era. This chopper had a wide variety of uses ranging from medical evacuation to troop transport to gunship. The first flight of the Huey prototype was on Oct. 22, 1956, as the Bell XH-40-BF. The first Huey flew in service in June, 1959, and went overseas in 1960. Originally designated HU-1 (Helicopter, Utility, 1) Iroquois by the Army, it began service with the 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division and the 57th Medical Detachment. On Sept. 18, 1962, the Department of Defense passed a regulation requireing the joint service branches to use a uniform designation system. This led to the redesignation of the Huey as the UH-1. While the Iroquios was the official name, the unofficial nickname of “Huey” stuck in the public — it stems from the original designation, HU-1 — and quickly became slang for helicopter.
Originally commissioned by the U.S. Army based on the wide utility helicopters had shown in the Korean conflict, the primary role envisioned for the Iroquois was front-line medical evacuation. Vietnam quickly changed the Huey into troop transport and gunship. As helicopter usage evolved during Vietnam, the Huey became the basis for the creation in 1966 of the 1st Aviation Brigade. Armed UH-1Bs and Cs were formed into assault helicopter companies. By the end of the American role in Vietnam, the Huey took on TOW missles to become a tank killer.
There were nine major variants of the UH-1 over the years of production. The aircraft displayed by the Arkansas Air Museum is an H model. The differences between the H model and the D is the use of the Lycoming T-53-L-13 powerplant and the placement of a pitot tube and blade antenna on the cabin roof. The change of engine was prompted by difficulty in hovering in high temperatures due to inadequate power. The H model saw a production run of over 4,000, including a special run in 1987 for the Turkish government after the end of the regular line in 1980.
The UH-1H went into service with the U.S. Army in Sept. 1967. The Huey is the most universal aircraft of the modern era, serving in all four American military branches and at least 48 other nations armed forces. Almost 5,000 UH-1H were produced by 1982 with many still in service today.