Post WW2 Aicraft »

Bell UH-1H ‘Iroquois’ Helicopter - Huey

At the same time that the RNZAF purchased their Bell 47 ‘Sioux’ helicopters in 1965, they also purchased five Bell UH-1D ‘Iroquois’ aircraft. In 1970 these were joined by a further nine UH-1H models, and during the 1970’s all the earlier models were upgraded to UH-1H specifications.

Fourteen of the RNZAF’s Iroquois fleet from No. 3 Sqn prepare to take off, led by NZ3802 which is now housed by the National Army Museum (Waioru, New Zealand). In RNZAF service the ‘Huey’ was used in combined operations with the NZ Army frequently, either for tactical air transport, search and rescue, and counter-terrorist operations. It was also used to support humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions by the NZ Defence Force.  Photo: National Army Museum (NZ).

In US service the type was originally designated as the HU-1, and thus earned the nickname ‘Huey’, which stayed with the aircraft throughout its lengthy service career, even after it was re-designated as the UH-1. The Huey was made famous during the Vietnam War carrying soldiers in and out of battle, airlifting casualties to hospital and delivering fresh food and ammunition.The aircraft is also famous for the distinctive noise of its rotor blades, and it’s been a very versatile aircraft serving in war zones all around the world since its introduction in the early 1960’s. A replacement for the Iroquois was first considered by the RNZAF in the 1980’s, but no suitable new aircraft was available. However, the performance limitations of the aircraft in tropical East Timor from 1999 to 2002 reinforced the need for an urgent solution and in July 2015 the Iroquois were replaced by the bigger and faster A109 and NH90 helicopters.

One of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Huey's performs a very low level display routine at an airshow at Omaka Aerodrome (Blenheim, New Zealand).   Copyright © 2007 Les Bushell (Image Supplied)

During the type’s 49 years of service with the RNZAF, a total of 17 examples of the type were operated, and it was deployed in areas including the U.K., Southeast Asia, Timor, the Solomon Islands, various South Pacific nations, and the Antarctic. In addition to military use, well over a dozen other UH-1’s have been operated in New Zealand on the civil register. A modernised and upgraded version is still in use in many western countries including the USA.

One of the Royal New Zealand Air Force 'Huey's is put through its paces at a New Zealand airshow, prior to being retired in 2015.

Originally introduced in service in the USA in 1961, over 16,000 examples of the UH-1 were eventually built, including 5435 of the UH-1H variant. The LycomingT53-L-13 engine gave the aircraft a top speed of 217 km/h and a range of over 500km. Generally requiring a crew of 2-4 in military service the aircraft could be armed with 2 × 7- or 19-round 70 mm rocket pods and/or 2 x machine guns, and was capable of carrying five fully equipped troops

An RNZAF Iroquois helicopter participates in a ground support display during the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 75th Birthday celebration airshow at RNZAF Ohakea in 2012.

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