The helicopter design had originated as the Bell XH-40, first flying in October 1956. Following improvements, the helicopter would enter US Army service in 1959 as the HU-1, or ‘Huey’. Further improvements would be made over the following years, with various models emerging, and a name change from HU-1 to UH-1. Despite this, the nickname of ‘Huey’ would remain.
The original helicopters ordered by the Australian Government was the UH-1B. The B model had further improvements over the original. This would serve as Australia’s primary helicopter for troop transport and support.
In late 1966, 9 Squadron would received a pair of new Hueys. These helicopters – designated ‘Delta’ or UH-1D – had larger cabin space enabled four extra passengers to fit in. Obviously designed with Vietnam in mind, the delivery of these new helicopters helped with 9 Squadrons need to move units in and out of areas quickly. It’s success lead to the purchase of a further six UH-1Ds.
The Delta and earlier Beta variants would serve 9 Squadron well. These helicopters were not only essential for the transport of Australian troops around Vietnam, but also in the evacuation of wounded, and the delivery of supplies to soldiers in the field.
However, in February 1968, 9 Squadron would receive a new batch of helicopters to replace its older aircraft. This new design – the UH-1H – was built off of the existing UH-1D, but with the ‘useless’ older tech stripped, and several engine improvements.
Sixteen of these helicopters were ordered to replace the UH-1B, which were delivered throughout February 1968. These deliveries were made by the US Army directly to 9 Squadron at Vung Tau.
This design would serve as the basis for many upgrades undertaken by the RAAF. 9 Squadrons weapons system upgrades which culminated in the ‘Bushranger’ were built upon the UH-1H.
The UH-1H would go on to become the most iconic variant of the Huey, most often associated with the Vietnam War.
While the Australian armed forces would eventually retire the Huey after decades of service, the iconic design still lives on in military service, with the US Marines operating a modernised variant of the helicopter, known as the UH-1Y ‘Super Huey’, which will continue to serve into the future.