Unlicensed and licensed
The other Huey producers
The high performance of the Huey series made it an instant success for Bell in the export market. Demand for the type worldwide was such that a number of partner companies began producing the aircraft under licence to meet local needs.
The Huey in its many forms was produced under licence in Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and Taiwan meeting customer needs with a whole new set of variants with modifications to suit local requirements. It is also produced in Iran in an unlicensed version for use by the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation, a reverse engineering project derived from helicopters sold to Iran prior to the 1979 revolution.
The Luftwaffe and Heer, German Army Aviation, received a total of 352 UH-1DS between August 1967 and 1981, 13 of which were allocated to the Bundesgrenshutz, the Federal Border Guard in 1976 (now part of the Bundespolizei, the Federal Police). The first two UH-1DS, 70+01 and 70+02, were built by Bell and were followed by four more assembled from kits by Dornier in Germany. This established the licence production line in Germany and 140 more were built for the Luftwaffe, followed by 204 for Army Aviation. Aside from extensive use the utility and transport roles, a number of the German Hueys were also configured as Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters. Interestingly, despite the designation Dornier UH-1D, the entire German fleet are in fact UH-1HS, fitted with the 1400hp Lycoming T53-L-13 turbine and with the pitot head on top of the cabin. The fleet was subject to a Structural Life Extension Programme (SLEP) as well as an avionics and systems upgrade by RUAG Aviation at their facility in Oberpfaffenhoffen near Munich, the company being authorised to maintain and modify both the military and civil models of the Huey. RUAG still provides deep maintenance and overhaul support to the fleet today. In 2012, as part of a rationalisation of the armed forces, the Luftwaffe began the transfer of its remaining UH-1DS to the Army, the fleet reducing to 127 examples by 2014. Currently, Transporthubschrauberregiment (Transport Helicopter Regiment) THR 30 at Niederstetten is the last German Army unit to operate the type. Aside from their transport role, THR 30 also maintains a detachment at three other airfields to provide SAR cover to the whole country. The UH-1D is expected to be retired in 2016 and replaced with the NH-90 TTH.
The Indonesian Army had purchased 16 Bell 205A-1 helicopters in 1977 as utility transports, medevac and armed fire support platforms. Twelve of these are still listed as in service as of 2014, the success of the type leading to a licence agreement between Bell and Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN) in Bandung in November 1982 for manufacture and assembly of the Bell 412. Designated Nbell 412s, the first Indonesian built aircraft flew in April 1986, the helicopter being produced for the Indonesian armed forces and civil customers. In 1988, four Nbell 412s were delivered to the Indonesian Army as attack helicopters, while six more were delivered to the Navy in the anti-submarine and shipping roles and eleven more to civil customers over the next five years. Today, 37 Nbell 412s are listed as in service with the Army and three more with the Navy.
The production of Bell helicopters in Italy began in 1952 when a licence to build the Bell Model 47 was agreed with Agusta at Cascina Costa. Several versions of the helicopter were produced for all three Italian armed forces, the police and fire services and several government departments, as well as a range of civilian customers. Agusta also built the first 50 of a British military order for 200 Bell 47s while concluding a licence agreement with Westland Helicopters in Yeovilton. The success of this early venture and the obvious quantum leap in helicopter performance that the brand new Huey represented meant that Agusta were keen to licence production of the Bell 204 as soon as possible. Taking advantage of the development programme Bell had been conducting on the Model 204 and 205 for the US Army, the Italian manufacturer decided to produce the AgustaBell AB 204B with a range of engines and rotor sizes to fulfil the widest possible range of customer needs. Aside from the standard 1100hp Lycoming T53-L-11A turbine, the AB 204B could be fitted with the 1050hp H.1000 or 1250hp H.1200 versions of the Rolls-royce Bristol Gnome or the 1325hp General Electric T58-GE-3, driving either the 44ft (13.41m) or 48ft (14.63m) diameter main rotor. The Gnome engine was in fact a licence built version of the T58 with various British components and systems and was included for the ease of access to spares and support for European customers. Agusta’s policy of offering the widest range of options possible to customers also extended to the ancillary equipment fitted to the helicopter, and was to make the company the largest producer of the Huey after Bell itself. The first AB 204B first flew on May 10, 1961, and was to remain in production for the next 12 years, with 238 being built for military and civil customers, including the armed forces of Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In 1965, a specialised antisubmarine and anti-shipping version was developed, the AB 204AS. Powered by the T58-GE-3, this was supplied to the Italian, Spanish and Turkish navies and included a dipping sonar and a search radar in its suite of detection equipment. The AB 204AS could also carry a range of anti-ship and submarine weapons, including a pair of Mk 44 torpedoes. The introduction of the Model 205 long bodied Hueys saw Italian production shift to the Agusta Bell AB 205 in 1966 and AB 205A-1 in 1969, roughly the equivalents of the UH-1D and UH-1H but produced in both military and civil versions. Also built were five examples of the AB 205B with its larger engine for the Italian Army and Corpo Carabinieri, the militar y police. By the time production ended in early 1988, 490 AB 205s of all variants had been built and supplied to the armed forces of Australia, Greece, Iran, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe among others. Agusta also pre-empted the next development of the Huey family by designing and building two prototypes of twin engined versions of the helicopter. The AB 205BG of 1968 was powered by a pair of 1250hp Gnome H.1200 turbines, while the AB 205TA had a pair of 700hp Turboméca Astazou XIIS. Agusta also planned a fit a pair
of Continental 217 or Pratt and Whitney PT6 turbines to offer customers a range of twin engined options, but the plans never developed beyond the two prototypes. In 1971, the Bell-designed twin engined variant of the Huey did enter production in Italy as the Agusta Bell AB 212 with some 255 being built in five versions. Aside from 88 AB 212s for civil and military customers in various countries, three AB 212GE electronic countermeasures and electronic intelligence helicopters were built for the Italian Navy, 40 AB 212AM utility transports were built for the Italian Police and Air Force, five AB 212EW electronic warfare platforms were built for the air forces of Greece and Turkey, three AB 212ICO Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopters were upgraded for 21 Gruppo of the Italian Air Force for deployment to Afghanistan in that role, but the most numerous variant by far was the AB 212ASW, 119 of which were built for the navies of Greece, Iran, Italy, Peru, Spain, Turkey, and Venezuela. This last version is an anti-shipping and anti-submarine warfare platform intended to replace the earlier AB 204AS. Powered by the 1875hp Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6T-6 Turbo Twin Pac, like the earlier aircraft it was developed and marketed solely by Agusta. The winch mounted over the starboard cabin door can deploy a dipping sonar, originally a Bendix AN/AQS-13B/F low frequency model, later upgraded to the AQS18. A search radar is also fitted in a distinctive radome above the cockpit. This was a ARI5955 radar in a thimble shaped radome in the first batch of 212ASWS, but was soon replaced by such radars as the Seaspray and APS-705A with their more drum shaped radomes. The helicopter can be armed with a pair of the Mk 44, Mk 46 or A244/S homing torpedoes, or two Marte Mk 2 or Sea Skua anti-shipping missiles. Since its introduction in 1973, the 212ASW fleet worldwide had undergone a series of sensor and avionics upgrades as well as airframe life extension programmes, the Spanish aircraft as recently as 2011, which should see the type remain in service well into the 2020s. The last Agusta-built Huey variant was the Model 412, which entered production in 1981 as the Agusta Bell AB 412. Production of the AB 412 would include the Bell developed 412SP, HP and EP variants with the more powerful versions of the PT6T powerplant as these were introduced over the next 13 years. The military versions of the AB 412s are often referred to by the name Grifone or Griffon. Like the 204AS and 212ASW, the Grifone was developed by Agusta independently, the airframe being fitted with an energy absorbing undercarriage and crash worthy seats along with self sealing fuel tanks, all aimed at improving the type’s survivability in military operations. A wide variety of weapons can also be carried, including door and pod mounted versions of the .50 cal machine gun or 25 mm Oerlikon cannon. Pylons can support 19 tube 81mm SNORA rocket pods, eight TOW anti-tank missiles, Stinger air-to-air missiles for self defence or up to four Sea Skua anti-ship missiles giving the Grifone a wide range of mission applications beyond its basic medevac and transport roles. The prototype Grifone first flew in August 1982 and was widely exported, a total of 260 of the military and civil versions of the AB 412 being built for countries as diverse as Sweden and New Zealand. The Grifone was also used as the basis for an attempt to provide NATO with an airborne moving target indicator (AMTI) radar system, known as the AB 412 CRESO. This stood for Complesso Radar Eliportato per la Sorveglianza, or heliborne battlefield surveillance radar, the large, flattened drum shaped radar being fitted under the nose of the helicopter. Only one was built, the trials aircraft, MM81196, and it is preserved today at Viterbo Air Base. Agusta is now Agustawestland, part of the Finmeccanica group, and was the largest manufacturer of Hueys of all models after Bell, increasing both the range of models and the range of customers for the helicopter.
Bell signed a production licence for the Huey in Japan with Mitsui & Co Ltd on January 20, 1962, which in turn engaged Fuji Heavy Industries to manufacture the Bell 204B and UH-1B at its factory at Utsonomiya. Lycoming supplied the engines as kits to Kawasaki, which assembled them as the KT-53 turbine. The only difference between US and Japanese manufactured helicopters was that the tail rotor was mounted on the starboard side of the fin instead of the port, a detail that would later feature on several other Huey models. Over the next 11 years, Fuji was to built 138 of both the civil and military versions for the Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) and several Japanese airlines, 90 of both types being delivered to the Army Aviation Groups throughout the country. In 1968, one of the Fuji Bell 204Bs was converted as an experimental compound helicopter with a 22ft (6.7m) span fixed wing and enlarged tail surfaces, flying for the first time on February 11, 1970. Known as the XMH, it conducted a series of experimental flights up to 1973. Also that year, Fuji developed the Model 204B-2, fitted with the 1400hp KT-53-13B turbine as a high performance version of the helicopter, 20 being built for the JGSDF. In 1974, six UH-1BS were used in weapons trials with rocket pods and guns, the success of which led to the conversion of 20 airframes to serve as gunships. Several Japanese built 204Bs were for US civil customers as Bell’s production line was working at maximum capacity for the US Army. Also powered by the KT-53-13B turbine was the first of the long bodied Hueys built in Japan, based on the Model 205B civil version and designated the UH-1H, it was in fact identical to the US UH-1H, even down to the tail rotor being on the port side of the fin. The first Fuji built UH-1H flew on July 17, 1973, 133 being built for the JGSDF to replace the earlier UH-1BS in the transport and gunship roles. A number of UH-1HS were also converted to carry and dispense mines as area denial munitions platforms. As with the earlier 204, Fuji also developed what was known as the 205B-2, an upgraded military transport version unofficially known as the UH-1J. This featured the more streamlined nose of the Model 212 and the uprated 1800hp T53-L-703 engine, along with infrared jammers, a night vision goggle compatible cockpit and a vibration reduction system. Fuji built 126 of this version for the JGSDF, the first being delivered in 1993. As of 2014, 153 UH-1HS and Js were listed as in service, but plans were announced to begin to replace these with a new Kawasaki-developed helicopter in 2017.
The Aero Industry Development Centre (AIDC) in Taiwan built 118 UH-1HS for the Republic of China Army between 1969 and 1976. These helicopters were to undergo a series of upgrades during their service lives and impressively 91 remained listed as in service in 2014. Five UH-1HS were donated to Panama in 1997 to operate as anti-narcotics aircraft and four more went to Paraguay in 2002. Aside from Army Aviation, UH-1HS are also operated in Taiwan by the National Fire Administration as aerial fire fighters.
As already covered earlier in this issue, large numbers of Hueys had been purchased by the Shah of Iran prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. These 205s, 212s and 214s had been both successful and reliable in Iranian service, so the Iranian Helicopter Support and Renewal Company began a study to explore the feasibility of reverse engineering the helicopter. The company was already responsible for the repair and maintenance of the entire Iranian Huey fleet, so were well versed in the technology and structure. The result was the Panha Shabaviz 2-75, the first of which flew in 1998, entering series production in 2002. Little is known about this Huey version, but it appears to be based on the 205 and 214C airframe, while the number built remains unclear.
An Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) Nbell 412, seen over the site of Indonesia’s successful world record attempt for most divers diving in the one place at the same time off the coast of Manado, Indonesia.
One of the 352 Dornier UH-1DS built for the German Army and Luftwaffe. Despite their designation, these were actually UH-1HS. Aside from as a utility transport, the Dornier UH-1DS also filled the search and rescue role with the German forces, a task they maintain today.
The licence agreement with Agusta of Italy to produce Bell helicopters began with the Bell 47 in several models, two of which are seen here in Corpo Carabinieri service.
Left: The upgraded cockpit of a Dornier built UH-1D, the upgrade and maintenance of the fleet being managed by Swiss manufacturer Ruag Aviation.
One of the first units to operate the Agusta Bell AB 204B was 15 Stormo of the Italian Air Force.the performance of the new aircraft gave the Alpine units the performance they needed, as seen here on September 7, 1966, as one of their aircraft lands on Mont Blanc. The Agusta Bell AB 204B was supplied to a number of armed forces, including the Austrian Air Force as seen here.
An Agusta Bell AB 212 of the Spanish Navy delivers Tunisian naval personnel on to the Spanish ship SPS Contramaestre Casado (A01) as part of Exercise Phoenix Express 2007.The exercise included the forces of Algeria, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain,tunisia,turkey and the United States. A pair of Agusta Bell AB 212ASWS of the Italian navy showing the position of the APS-705A radar with its drum shaped radome. One of the most instantly recognisable customers for the Agusta Bell 412SP was the brightly coloured search and rescue units of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
As with many forces that operate the Agusta Bell AB 205, the Greek Air Force uses the type in the search and rescue role. Soldiers from the 4th Alpine Parachute Regiment of the Italian Army rappel down from an 4th Army Aviation Regiment AB205 helicopter during the Falzarego exercise on August 23, 2011.
The 126 upgraded Fuji Bell AH-1JS of the Japan Ground Self Defence Force feature the more streamlined nose of the Model 212 and the uprated 1800hp T53-L-703 engine. A total of 118 UH-1H Iroquois were built by AIDC for the Republic of China Army. They have proven to be long lived airframes, entering service in 1980, this one photographed in 2012.
The all-glass cockpit upgrade for the Agusta Bell AB 412.