Su­per Huey

Bell He­li­copter and the UH-1Y Venom

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS - Words: Tim Call­away & Bell He­li­copter

In a new fea­ture for Avi­a­tion Clas­sics, we had the op­por­tu­nity to put a se­ries of ques­tions to the team at Bell He­li­copter re­gard­ing the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Huey fam­ily, the ex­tremely ad­vanced and po­tent UH-1Y Venom, of­ten re­ferred to as the ‘Yan­kee’ in ser­vice. We would par­tic­u­larly like to thank Dana Schenk, com­mu­ni­ca­tions manager at Bell He­li­copter Mil­i­tary Pro­grams for her work in ac­quir­ing an­swers to all our ques­tions.

Are­cur­ring theme through­out the devel­op­ment of the Huey fam­ily recorded in this is­sue has been the quest for greater per­for­mance, greater pay­load and more power to meet the ex­pand­ing needs of mil­i­tary and civil cus­tomers. The par­al­lel tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment of sen­sors, weapons, avion­ics and flight safety sys­tems added weight and com­plex­ity to the air­frame, all of which had to be ac­com­mo­dated to keep the de­sign able to best ful­fill its var­i­ous roles. This quest has seen the mil­i­tary Huey in par­tic­u­lar grow in size and ca­pa­bil­ity far be­yond the orig­i­nal de­sign as Bell en­gi­neers have sought and de­vel­oped so­lu­tions in re­sponse to the prob­lems that emerged from ac­tual com­bat and op­er­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence with the he­li­copter. The range of mis­sions the mil­i­tary UH-1 vari­ants have been used in and adapted for fell far out­side the de­sign in­ten­tions set out at the very be­gin­ning, the orig­i­nal util­ity trans­port be­com­ing an armed gun­ship from its first de­ploy­ments to Viet­nam. That the Bell team has suc­cess­fully risen to th­ese chal­lenges has been a cru­cial fac­tor in the suc­cess and longevity of the type in ser­vice. The lat­est vari­ant, the UH-1Y Venom, is in­tended to ful­fill the needs of the US Marine Corps for the next 40 years, so will com­plete an ut­terly re­mark­able 100 years of UH-1 op­er­a­tions with the US armed forces. Avi­a­tion Clas­sics was given the op­por­tu­nity to put some ques­tions to Bell He­li­copter re­gard­ing this suc­cess, to get the man­u­fac­turer’s view­point on this re­mark­able ma­chine and to get a feel for the think­ing be­hind the UH-1 and its fu­ture. We would like to thank ev­ery­one at the com­pany for their time and trou­ble in pro­vid­ing an­swers.


In 1996 the US Gov­ern­ment ap­proved an up­grade pro­gramme for the US Marine Corps H-1 he­li­copters, the AH-1W Su­per Co­bra and UH-1N Twin Huey, the aim be­ing to de­velop a mod­ern attack and util­ity he­li­copter that would of­fer sig­nif­i­cant cost ef­fec­tive­ness and re­main in ser­vice for the next four decades. The orig­i­nal con­cept was to con­vert 100 UH-1NS and 180 AH-1WS, fit­ting a new glass cock­pit with its at­ten­dant avion­ics, en­gines and ro­tors. The two de­signs had a re­mark­able 84% com­mon­al­ity, the same tail booms, main and tail ro­tors, en­gines, drive trains and trans­mis­sions be­ing used on both types, as well as a great deal of the avion­ics, soft­ware, dis­plays and con­trols, mak­ing the four cock­pit po­si­tions sim­i­lar across both air­craft. This has many ad­van­tages, not just in terms of train­ing and fa­mil­iar­ity for air and ground crew across the fleet, but also in terms of the cost of spares and the sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of the at­ten­dant sup­ply chain for the Marine Corps. Com­bined with th­ese up­grades are a state of the art sen­sor and de­fen­sive aid suite, in­clud­ing hel­met mounted tar­get­ing and flight dis­plays. The main ro­tor is an en­tirely new de­sign, fea­tur­ing com­pos­ite broad chord blades and a head that has no hinges or bear­ings, be­ing both sim­pler and lighter than the orig­i­nal. Like­wise, the tail ro­tor is a new four bladed unit, mounted on top of the fin. The el­e­va­tors have moved fur­ther aft to the base of the fin and are ta­pered to­ward the tip, both mod­i­fi­ca­tions of­fer­ing im­proved con­trol ef­fec­tive­ness across the speed range. The new en­gines were a tur­bo­prop al­ready familiar to Bell, as it had been used on the 214ST and AH-1W Su­per Co­bra, but in an up­graded form. The Gen­eral Elec­tric T700GE-401C pro­duces 1546hp, but can boost this to 1828hp for up to two and half min­utes. Not only does the pair of T700s of­fer nearly three times the power of the orig­i­nal Huey de­sign, but at greatly re­duced fuel con­sump­tion, in­creas­ing the speed and lift­ing ca­pa­bil­ity at the same time as pro­vid­ing much greater range from the 352 US Gall (1333 litre) in­ter­nal fuel ca­pac­ity. The weapons py­lons on ei­ther side of the rear of the cabin doors can carry the LAU-68 seven tube or the LAU-61 19 tube rocket pods, ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing any of the ver­sions of the Hy­dra 70 (Mk.66) 2.75in (70mm) un­guided rock­ets. They can also carry the new Ad­vanced Pre­ci­sion Kill Weapon Sys­tem (APKWS) II laser guided rocket based on the Hy­dra 70 in the same tube launch­ers, able to des­ig­nate tar­gets them­selves or use those marked by other plat­forms. In a trial in April 2013, 10 rock­ets fired by a UH-1Y all struck both sta­tion­ary and mov­ing tar­gets at ranges of be­tween two and four kilo­me­tres, a re­mark­able suc­cess. The door mounts can also each carry a M240D 7.62mm or a BMG GAU-16/A .50 cal, both sin­gle bar­relled ma­chine guns. Al­ter­na­tively, the six bar­relled GAU-17/A elec­tri­cally driven ‘mini­gun’ can be mounted and fired by the pi­lots when it is in the fixed for­ward po­si­tion, or used by the rear crew as a door gun to pro­vide close air sup­port to ground forces. The first UH-1Y was con­verted from a UH1N and flew as an aero­dy­namic test­bed for the first time in De­cem­ber 2001. This had a dorsal fin un­der the main fin and large en­gine ex­hausts an­gled at 45º, close mounted on ei­ther side of the trans­mis­sion. Both of th­ese were changed in the pro­duc­tion ver­sions, the dorsal fin be­ing deleted and the ex­hausts now ly­ing flat and spread out, an­gled out­board. This ar­range­ment was far more ef­fec­tive at dis­si­pat­ing the heat from the en­gines and re­duc­ing the heat sig­na­ture of the UH-1Y con­sid­er­ably. The first fully con­fig­ured UH-1Y flew in Oc­to­ber 2003, and a low rate ini­tial pro­duc­tion (LRIP) or­der was placed for six more in De­cem­ber, with four more be­ing or­dered in April 2005. Ex­pe­ri­ence with th­ese first two batches found that it was cheaper and more ef­fi­cient to build the air­craft from new, as op­posed to the orig­i­nal plan to up­grade ex­ist­ing UH-1NS. The plan to ac­quire 100 he­li­copters was also changed to 160, all ex­cept the first 10 be­ing new build air­craft. De­vel­op­men­tal testing of the UH-1Y by the USMC be­gan af­ter the first test ex­am­ple was de­liv­ered in Oc­to­ber 2005, op­er­a­tional eval­u­a­tion oc­cur­ring dur­ing 2006. The first full pro­duc­tion ver­sion UH-1Y was de­liv­ered in Jan­uary 2007, the type achiev­ing ini­tial op­er­at­ing ca­pa­bil­ity in June the fol­low­ing year and be­ing sent on its first de­ploy­ment with the 13th Marine Ex­pe­di­tionary Unit (MEU) on board USS Boxer in Jan­uary 2009. The high per­for­mance of the new he­li­copter was such that the first com­bat de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan also oc­curred and full rate pro­duc­tion was ap­proved in the same year. The 100th UH-1Y was de­liv­ered to the US Marine Corps on Jan­uary 16, 2013, the last of the 160 be­ing in­tended for de­liv­ery in 2016.


1.The UH-1 first flew in 1956 and is still in pro­duc­tion to­day, the long­est con­tin­u­ous pro­duc­tion run of any he­li­copter in avi­a­tion his­tory and a fam­ily that in­cludes the most pro­duced sin­gle en­gined he­li­copter of all time, in­cred­i­ble achieve­ments for an air­craft de­sign. What would you say are the ma­jor fac­tors in this re­mark­able longevity and suc­cess?

The Bell UH-1 is a re­mark­ably rugged air­craft that was de­signed to pro­vide aerial de­liv­ery of sup­plies and per­son­nel, op­er­ated in di­rect sup­port of in­fantry forces. Since its in­cep­tion, it has been con­tin­u­ally de­vel­oped and im­proved upon work­ing jointly with the US Marines and Army who were fly­ing the air­craft ag­gres­sively dur­ing Viet­nam and ev­ery com­bat en­vi­ron­ment since then. With each new vari­ant, Bell He­li­copter has re­designed the air­craft to im­prove per­for­mance, speed, range, main­tain­abil­ity and all-weather re­li­a­bil­ity for max­i­mum readi­ness. The UH-1Y is the world’s most ver­sa­tile and ca­pa­ble util­ity he­li­copter based on decades of com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence and will serve the US Marine Corps for the next 40 years.

2.The UH-1 is des­ig­nated and termed a ‘util­ity’ he­li­copter, inas­much as it can ful­fil a wide range of mis­sions for an op­er­a­tor. Could you de­scribe the kind of roles the Yan­kee is in­tended for and used in?

The UH-1Y has evolved in its mission ca­pa­bil­i­ties far be­yond its ‘util­ity’ des­ig­na­tion, and en­ables the US Marine Corps the most ef­fi­cient means of ac­com­plish­ing an ar­ray of mis­sions, any­where in the world, in­clud­ing:

Com­bat as­sault trans­port Air de­liv­ery Air­borne com­mand and con­trol In­ser­tion and ex­trac­tion (fas­trope) Ac­tive air de­fence Strike co­or­di­na­tion and re­con­nais­sance Armed re­con­nais­sance Close and deep air sup­port Re­cov­ery of air­craft and per­son­nel Aerial es­cort Op­er­a­tions from sea and shore Emer­gency re­sup­ply Fire­fight­ing

3. Since 2009, the UH-1Y has been op­er­a­tional with the US Marine Corps. Have you had much in the way of feed­back from the front line as re­gards the re­li­a­bil­ity and util­ity of the UH-1Y? How is it per­form­ing in the field?

The limited pay­load, en­gine power, and high altitude per­for­mance of the UH-1N air­craft re­stricted Marine Corps op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan.there­fore, the Marine Corps chose to ac­cel­er­ate the in­tro­duc­tion of the UH-1Y into Afghanistan in 2009.The in­tro­duc­tion of the UH-1Y into th­ese en­vi­ron­ments with its vastly in­creased speed, range, and pay­load re­turned the util­ity mission to the Marine com­bat forces. The Bell UH-1YS have been con­tin­u­ously de­ployed in Afghanistan since 2009 and have been en­gaged in sus­tained, high­tempo com­bat op­er­a­tions since their ar­rival. The UH-1Y’S in­creased pay­load and weapons ca­pa­bil­i­ties have af­forded ground com­man­ders more op­tions and the US Marine Corps is cur­rently re­fin­ing its tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures to ex­ploit the en­hanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties.the USMC has now fully tran­si­tioned to the new UH-1Y with the last of UH-1N air­craft re­tired in Au­gust 2014. Mariniza­tion, which in­cludes cor­ro­sion re­sis­tant treat­ments, blade fold, en­hanced ro­tor brakes, and min­imised elec­tro­mag­netic en­vi­ron­ment ef­fects, have ben­e­fited main­te­nance and re­li­a­bil­ity in all­weather en­vi­ron­ments.the com­mon­al­ity of main­te­nance-sig­nif­i­cant com­po­nents to the AH-1Z re­duces the US Marine Corps to­tal cost of own­er­ship, with less main­te­nance train­ing and lo­gis­ti­cal foot­print re­quired for both air­craft.

4.The UH-1Y is ob­vi­ously far re­moved from the orig­i­nal de­sign in terms of con­struc­tion, equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy. What are the ma­jor changes in the devel­op­ment of the Yan­kee?

The new Bell UH-1Y has in­cor­po­rated a new driv­e­train and two up­graded GE en­gines which of­fer sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter lift and op­er­a­tional reach than the Bell UH-1N. Up­grades in ISR, tar­get­ing, and pre­ci­sion fire con­trols rep­re­sent a gi­ant leap in the ca­pa­bil­ity to sup­port the util­ity and light attack mission spec­trum.

5. Re­gard­ing th­ese en­gi­neer­ing changes, what ef­fects have they had on the per­for­mance of the UH-1Y over its pre­de­ces­sors?

The UH-1Y was de­signed and built for the mod­ern day bat­tle­field and has a 125% pay­load im­prove­ment and a 50% in­crease in range and max­i­mum cruise speed as com­pared to the UH-1N.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions in­clude: Max speed: 170 knots Cruise speed: 147 knots Com­bat Ra­dius: 119 nau­ti­cal miles Max Gross Weight: 18,500lb

6.The in­te­grated glass cock­pit is a new fea­ture on the UH-1Y. How easy has it been for air­crew to tran­si­tion onto the new sys­tem and what ad­van­tages are there in this type of in­for­ma­tion dis­play for pi­lots?

The in­te­grated avion­ics sys­tem im­proves the air­crew’s sit­u­a­tional aware­ness by pro­vid­ing mul­ti­ple data streams through the mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays and the hel­met mounted ‘heads up’ dis­­ese mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays are com­mon to the AH-1Z and de­liver nav­i­ga­tion, weapons sys­tems, flight man­age­ment, air­craft sys­tems, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and sen­sor man­age­ment. The in­cor­po­ra­tion of ‘Hands On Col­lec­tive and Stick’ al­lows the air­crew the abil­ity to en­gage the air­craft sys­tems with­out tak­ing their hands off the con­trols.the weapons sys­tems on the AH-1Z and the sen­sor sys­tems on the UH-1Y are con­trolled via ded­i­cated mission grips sim­i­lar to a game con­troller popular with video games in use to­day. The lay­out and func­tion­al­ity of the crewmem­ber sta­tions, side by side in the UH1Y or fore and aft in the AH-1Z, are vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal, min­imis­ing train­ing and al­low­ing a pi­lot to fly and fight from ei­ther sta­tion.

7.The ad­vanced hel­met mounted sight­ing and in­for­ma­tion sys­tem is an­other new fea­ture of the UH-1Y. What are the benefits of this sys­tem and how has it been work­ing in prac­tice on op­er­a­tions?

The Op­ti­mized Topowl Hel­met Mounted Sight and Dis­play is com­bat-proven and of­fers day and night avion­ics to present a ‘heads-up dis­play’ of vis­ual aids to the pi­lot, re­duc­ing pi­lot work­load.the hel­met dis­play pro­vides air­craft sta­tus in­for­ma­tion anal­o­gous to a sys­tems page on the mul­ti­func­tion dis­play. The pre­sen­ta­tion to the pi­lot in his day or night hel­met dis­play frees up a mul­ti­func­tion dis­play for sen­sors, nav­i­ga­tion, etc. with­out a loss of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness with re­gard to the air­craft. Ad­di­tion­ally, the hel­met al­lows for sen­sor cue in­for­ma­tion, line of sight of the other pi­lot, and weapons retic­ules.the hel­met su­per­im­poses in­for­ma­tion in front of the pi­lots’ right eye ei­ther in a day form or over the night vi­sion gog­gles for night op­er­a­tions. Sup­ple­men­tal hover sym­bols aid the pi­lot in re­duced visibility ap­proach and land­ings. Cou­pled with a high pre­ci­sion head track­ing sys­tem, the hel­met af­fords air­crew ease of tar­get iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, en­gage­ment and hand off to the other crew mem­ber.

8. Much is spo­ken of ‘sur­viv­abil­ity’ in mil­i­tary manned air­craft to­day. What sys­tems does the UH-1Y fea­ture to aid its bat­tle­field sur­viv­abil­ity?

Both the AH-1Z and the UH-1Y were de­signed with sur­viv­abil­ity in mind.the ro­tor hubs, fuel tanks, and gear boxes are bal­lis­ti­cally tol­er­ant, while the ro­tor blades are ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing 23mm mu­ni­tions. The land­ing gear is rated for 12 feet per

sec­ond de­scent and is de­signed to re­duce the im­pact dur­ing a hard land­ing and should the land­ing ex­ceed 12 feet per sec­ond, the fail­ure modes of the land­ing gear are de­signed to spread, break, and de­part the air­craft in such a man­ner as they will con­tinue to dis­si­pate the im­pact forces.the air­crew are pro­tected by crash at­ten­u­at­ing seats. En­gine infrared sup­pres­sors and infrared re­flec­tive paint make the air­craft harder to de­tect, plus the air­craft is out­fit­ted with a ro­bust, com­bat-tested suite of threat de­tec­tion and coun­ter­mea­sure equip­ment, in­clud­ing radar, mis­sile and laser warn­ing sys­tems and coun­ter­mea­sure dispensing sys­tems. The abil­ity to fly at a higher altitude above and a faster speed away from the threat also greatly im­proves sur­viv­abil­ity. How­ever, com­bat of­ten re­quires flight op­er­a­tions in close prox­im­ity to en­emy forces for the H-1 air­craft mission set.the USMC UH-1YS in Afghanistan have sus­tained mul­ti­ple hits on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, but com­pleted their mis­sions and re­turned safely to base. 9. What are the fu­ture plans for the UH-1 in terms of devel­op­ment and ad­di­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties?

Bell He­li­copter con­tin­ues to work with the US Marine Corps to ad­vance the air­craft ca­pa­bil­i­ties to in­clude po­ten­tial op­tions for ex­tend­ing the range of the H-1 fleet, in­cor­po­rat­ing more ad­vanced avion­ics, dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity, and ad­vanced weapons ca­pa­bil­ity.

The fol­low­ing an­swers were pro­vided by Tony Randall, head of flight safety at Bell He­li­copter and for­mer US Marine Corps Lt Colonel.

10. From a pi­lots’ per­spec­tive, what is the air­craft like to fly? What would you say are its chief char­ac­ter­is­tics as a han­dling ma­chine?

In com­par­i­son to the air­craft it’s re­plac­ing (the UH-1N), it is a sports car. Due mostly to the new ro­tor sys­tem, the he­li­copter is ex­tremely re­spon­sive and ag­ile. In ad­di­tion, the power avail­able un­der nor­mal con­di­tions al­lows for ex­cess power for ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity.

11. From your long ex­pe­ri­ence of the UH-1, do you have a favourite story about it, or an il­lus­tra­tion of a par­tic­u­lar ca­pa­bil­ity pe­cu­liar to the air­craft?

Dur­ing cer­tain com­bat op­er­a­tions we were able to de­crease the to­tal num­ber of air­craft re­quired to com­plete the mission. With the weight car­ry­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the UH-1Y com­bined with the on­board ord­nance and the sen­sor pack­age, we would not only trans­port and in­sert the troops into the LZ, we would then re­main on sta­tion to pro­vide sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance of the route and the ob­jec­tive dur­ing ingress and close air sup­port dur­ing ac­tions on the ob­jec­tive. This ca­pa­bil­ity re­sulted in two UH-1Y air­craft do­ing a mission that would tra­di­tion­ally re­quire four or five air­craft of dif­fer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.this is some­thing we did many times with small or spe­cial op­er­a­tions units.

Above: Left: Keith Dray­cott Bell He­li­copter

US Marine Corps UH-1YS from sev­eral units took part in the 100th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of Naval Avi­a­tion at San Diego in 2011. Here, two are seen with an AH-1W on the right, and the air­craft that is re­plac­ing it at the mo­ment, the AH-1Z in the cen­tre of the im­age. Note the com­mon tail­booms, ro­tors, en­gines and trans­mis­sions be­tween the AH-1Z and UH-1Y. The early form of the UH-1Y in­cluded sharply an­gled ex­hausts and a dorsal fin.

Keith Dray­cott Con­stance Red­grave

A UH-1Y of HMLAT-303 with the BMG GAU-16/A .50 cal ma­chine gun mounted on the door pin­tle above a seven tube rocket pod. A UH-Y and AH-1Z on dis­play at the Paris Air Show in 2013. Ex­ter­nal fuel tanks can also be car­ried on the weapons py­lons to ex­tend the range as seen here. Note the multi sen­sor FLIR Sys­tems BRITE Star ther­mal imag­ing and laser des­ig­na­tion tur­ret un­der the nose. BRITE Star con­sists of a triple field-of-view ther­mal imager, a high-res­o­lu­tion CCD TV cam­era and an eye­safe laser rangefinder and des­ig­na­tor.

Bell He­li­copter

The four bladed main and tail ro­tors, aft mounted el­e­va­tors and un­der nose sen­sor tur­ret are all fea­tures of the UH-1Y, seen here dur­ing early tri­als with an air data probe mounted on the nose.

US Marines

The high per­for­mance of the UH-1Y makes it ide­ally suited to deploy to hot and high altitude the­atres, mean­ing it was sent to Afghanistan from its ac­cep­tance into ser­vice. Here a UH-1Y de­liv­ers wa­ter to a se­cu­rity de­tach­ment dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Centrum.

US Marines

A UH-1Y lifts off from Camp Bas­tion in Afghanistan, an op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ment for the type al­most as soon as it en­tered ser­vice. Note the flat, wide­spread ex­hausts ev­i­dent in this view, which excel at dis­si­pat­ing the heat from the T700 tur­bines.

US Navy

One of the al­ter­na­tive door guns is the six bar­relled GAU-17/A elec­tri­cally driven ‘mini­gun’.this can be fired by the pi­lots when it is in the fixed for­ward po­si­tion as seen here on a UH-1Y of VMM-263, or used by the rear crew as a door gun to pro­vide close air sup­port to ground forces.

Bell He­li­copter US Navy

The com­mon­al­ity of the de­sign be­tween the AH-1Z (near­est the cam­era) and UH-1Y are ev­i­dent in this shot of the two on the deck lift of a he­li­copter car­rier.the ‘mariniza­tion’ process of the de­signs in­cluded the blade fold sys­tem demon­strated here. The first ship the UH-1Y was de­ployed aboard was USS Boxer (LHD 4). Here, in an ex­er­cise in Novem­ber 2008 prior to that de­ploy­ment, a UH-1Y of HMM-163 takes off af­ter re­fu­elling aboard the ship, a taste of things to come.

US Navy

Cap­tain Karla Cumbie, left, and Lance Cor­po­ral Ti­mothy Miller per­form a preflight check on a UH-1Y of HMM-364. Re­in­forced, be­fore flight op­er­a­tions aboard the am­phibi­ous trans­port dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) in Jan­uary 2013. Note the new tail ro­tor de­sign, four bladed and a much sim­pler ro­tor head than pre­vi­ously.

Northrop Grum­man

The fully in­te­grated Northrop Grum­man glass cock­pit is night vi­sion gog­gle com­pat­i­ble and in­cludes the Thales ‘Top Owl’ hel­met mounted sight and dis­play.

US Navy

The UH-1Y is also fit­ted with a com­pre­hen­sive and so­phis­ti­cated de­fen­sive aids suite. Here, a UH-1Y re­leases infrared de­coy flares dur­ing an air power demon­stra­tion for Tiger Cruise par­tic­i­pants aboard the am­phibi­ous as­sault ship USS Makin Is­land (LHD 8) in June 2012.

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