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Article UH-1 Armament - part 1

Discussion in 'Vietnam War' started by rotorwash, Dec 12, 2011.


  1. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    From the date of its inception there never has been a more used, abused, tested and tried aircraft as the Huey. The utilitarian aspect of the aircraft made it invaluable, its low cost and ability to take punishment made it famous, but the version that everyone gravitates to was the testosterone model, the gunship. No other aircraft has been saddled with as many ridiculous, stupid, ingenious, absurd, amusing armament configurations as this aircraft.
    Before I discuss the tough guys, I went to spend a few minutes discussing the weapons that were standard on the “D” model, the M-23 system using the M-60D with the spade handle grips.

    2helo_weapons1-1.gif

    Generally it was a well designed system, but needed some modification in the field. The ammo chute easily jammed so it was discarded. That created another problem because the rounds wouldn’t feed well, this was cured by a field expedient modification of adding a C ration can to the gun. Still, there were problems, on the left side the wind could push the empty casings back into the gun causing jams, so the brass catching bag was necessary. Also on the left side, without the ammo chute the rounds would string out in the wind. I have literally had 150 rounds of 7.62 flapping in the wind with me trying to pull them into the gun before they hit the aircraft or broke off.

    huey 0002.jpg

    A good picture of the unauthorized field modification C ration can on the M-60.

    huey 0003.jpg

    Another day at the office for the heroic door gunner (ahem.) I wonder if this picture might be posed.

    The earliest attempts at serious armament for gunships involved rocket pods and the old .30 caliber machine gun mounted on the skids. The pods were knocked out of whack on every landing and the machine gun had a handle attached to the charging mechanism that required the gunner to sit on the floor, and in the old “A” model with just slightly more horsepower than a serious muscle car, getting airborne with a reasonable load of fuel was a challenge.


    I think that wire to the pods might be Romex 12-2 w/ground.

    huey 0004.jpg

    huey 0005.jpg

    The “B” model had more horsepower and hardpoints for external stores, so naturally the guns got bigger and the ultimate helicopter super weapon, a 20mm gun cannibalized from an A-1 Skyraider was mounted under the belly on the centerline of the aircraft. The first shot blew out the chin bubbles.

    Then came the “C” and “D” models, much more power, other improvements like a longer rotor on the “D” and a wider blade and improved head on the “C” and of course armament to match. There was the mortar dispenser that dropped 81 mm mortar rounds. And the dispenser for CS canisters and bomblets. I was on the first combat assault using CS, the battalion said it was “a rousing success.” I beg to differ, it was a goat rope.

    There were the searchlights, loudspeakers, people sniffers, spray booms, smoke generators and the little known “238 tube rocket launcher” which was actually a photograph of a Huey with two rotor blades in their containers loaded across the cargo compartment. Everybody wanted a .50 cal on their Huey, never mind that for every ten rounds fired you popped two rivets in the airframe. The bigger the gun the better. All the way up to a 20mm 3 barrel Vulcan mounted in the door. Even an infra-red night sight on an M-5. This aircraft has seen every idea men could throw at it, yet it still retained its dignity and composure.


    Loudspeakers, boxes of leaflets inside to litter the countryside.

    huey 0006.jpg

    A true novelty item, the aircraft was useless for anything else. With all the weight on this side, I wonder if they got a fat crewchief to sit on the other side.

    The Huey was the first helicopter to purposely go hunting tanks, and did it very successfully with TOW kits on old “B” models brought directly from the states during the 1972 Easter Offensive.
     
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  2. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    Armament part 2

    But weight was always the determining factor, and with heavy guns you couldn’t carry enough ammo for them to be more than a novelty. It was finally determined that the best trade-off between weight, ammunition capacity and firepower was a system that fired a 7.62 round. For the “B” model the gun system used two M-60’s to a side, for the more powerful “C” model, the M-21 system was adopted with a 7.62 mini-gun on each side.

    huey 0007.jpg


    To feed the mini-guns, four rows of 3 ammo cans were mounted across the aircraft, two rows for each gun connected by a cross-over feed. Each can held 600 rounds, so each gun had 6 cans plus the ammo across the top and in the chutes for a total of about 4,000 rounds per gun. The guns were slowed to about 2,500 RPM and timed to 3 second bursts, each burst emptying a can. When both guns were fired at the same time, the airspeed would drop about 3 knots in a diving gun run. If the guns were fired one at a time, the aircraft would yaw noticeably, a condition that caught new pilots by surprise.

    huey 0008.jpg

    By using jump seats for the GIB’s the ammo cans could be reloaded in flight. The guy in this shot went on to become a colonel.

    Armament specialist messing around with the sight for the mini-guns.

    huey 0010.jpg


    When the mini-gun fired it sounded like a really loud zipper.

    m21guner.gif
    huey 0011.jpg


    Here’s lookin atcha!



    Mini-gun firing at night.

    Every gunship carried rocket pods for the FFAR (folding fin aerial rocket) developed in WW II, most commonly the 7 shot pods, however, the M-3 “Hog” system carried 24 rockets to a side. Pilots did not like it because the pilot that flew also fired, so the other pilot had nothing to do except try to control his pucker factor. Enlisted crews didn’t like it because 48 rockets was an entire pallet, and those things had to be assembled one at a time. I didn’t like them because every time you got in or out of the aircraft you were in front of the business end of the system. Three or four volts of static electricity could fire the entire salvo. We “broke” our M-3 system early on. Each rocket had a ten pound warhead, the equivalent of a 75mm howitzer round. By mid 68 we had a 17 pound warhead that was the equivalent of a 105. We also had flechettes that were really cool, but we had to use them with extra care, and proximity fuses that were awesome. huey8.jpg
     
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  3. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    Armament part 3

    The M-5 40mm launcher was the next most common system, also used with the 7 shot rocket pods. The launcher was mounted on the nose, the ammo chute was on the left side of the console next to the pilot’s seat and ran back to the magazine mounted fore and aft against the cabin bulkhead. The system came with a small magazine that held 40 rounds. We immediately threw it out and went to the sheet metal shop to create a 3 foot high magazine that held 120 rounds. Cyclic rate of fire was between 2 and 3 rounds a second and reminded me of someone walking down a sidewalk spitting watermelon seeds. In the right light you could see the rounds leave the gun, arch up to the left, straighten out and head for the target. They were different rounds than the M-79 round, they had more propellant and a raised ring around the middle for the links. The ring also made the round “idiot proof” by preventing it from being loaded in an M-79, it would have taken off someone’s shoulder for sure.

    huey14.gif huey15.jpg


    M-5 system set up on display somewhere. Note the itty bitty worthless ammo can.

    huey16.jpg

    Loaded and ready for bear, except someone is going to have to take it all apart and put the covers on.

    huey17.jpg

    The system being installed on one of our aircraft.

    Now at the risk of disappointing anyone, I would like to point out that the gunship with both the M-5 system and the M-21 system on the same airframe that has been made famous by model makers never saw combat. It never left the states. The one and only aircraft armed in such a fashion was a trials aircraft that proved what everyone knew, that it would never work. Before some dedicated modeler throws stones at me, consider this: there was not room enough for ammunition for both guns unless you only carried about 40 rounds for the M-5. In a gun run the pilot flying the aircraft also fired the rockets, the other pilot fired the mini-guns, just who is going to fire the M-5, they had a completely different sighting system. But weight was the deciding factor, in order to get off the ground the aircraft could only carry about 2,000 rounds for each mini-gun.

    The 1300 horsepower engine that first appeared in the “H” model made a world of difference, and of course allowed more junk to be hung on the aircraft. When the engine began appearing in rebuilt “C” models, now relabeled “M” models, the result was staggering. We could now get off the ground with a full load of fuel as well as a full load of ammunition. And in a really hairy situation we could add two additional door gunners
     
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  4. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    Armament part 4

    In mid-1968 the first AH-1G Cobras began to appear. I was on the UH-1 committee as an instructor when the first prototype was being tested and everyone summed it up with one word – “cool.” The prototype had a really neat front cockpit collective in the shape of a cobra’s head. When the assembly model started arriving, it stood a little taller off the ground than the prototype, the collective was more traditional and the armament possibilities were unreal. Under the nose it carried two weapons, either M-5’s, mini-guns or a combination of the two, although it carried only about 100 M-5 rounds and about 1,000 mini-gun rounds. On the stub wings you could mount mini-guns or 20 mm guns in individual pods, 19 shot rocket pods or any combination of the above. We felt the real advantage the Cobra offered was that it was only 36 inches across the fuselage making it a very small target when it was coming at you. A really cool feature that never made it to the production model was the sight that mounted directly to the gunner’s helmet and by using a pinky switch on the cyclic, called a dead man switch, the nose guns would train to where he was looking. It also had retractable skids, but they took up space and needed hydraulic pressure that might be in short supply in an emergancy, so they never made production.

    huey18.jpg

    huey19.jpg

    The nose turret with a mini-gun and an M-5. I think the label said “DANGER! DON’T STAND THERE.”

    Cobras began to equip units previously equipped with “B” models and air cav units but we quickly found out they could not be used the same as the “B” and “C” models. In the earlier gunships, pilots pulled out of gun runs just short of the target and then it was the doorgunner’s job to fire on the target during pullout or until the next ship had opened fire. On the Cobra, that job was supposed to be taken over by the gunner with the nose armament, but it took a while for the pilots to figure that out, so unnecessary damage was taken until the pilots figured out they could break farther out and did not have to press all the way to the target like the older ships did.

    The first Cobras had no air conditioning, but the canopy was tinted blue. The closest thing to cross ventilation was a bullet hole, you could not open the canopy or remove it because of rocket blast, consequently, the first units to receive the aircraft experienced dehydration among the pilots. Environmental control units available on civilian helicopters were quickly added and the canopy changed to a clear one. Another interesting thing learned in combat was that the ammunition compartment doors in the nose could support a person when opened, so enterprising crew chiefs began installing seat belts inside the doors, two people could be carried to safety in what would be a wild ride, but they were used successfully.

    huey20.jpg

    The "rumble seat ride" on the ammo compartment door that promised to equal anything a carnival could offer.

    The Marines developed a gunship at about the same time the Army was developing theirs. The Marines used the UH-1E, based on the “B” model and then later the “C” that featured some different metals that were more corrosion resistant for shipboard use. The “E” model had rockets and the TAT-101 gun turret under the nose with two 7.62 machine guns. The aircraft could carry more fuel than Army gunships, so it was used for cross border SOG missions.

    huey21.jpg

    An “E” model with the TAT 101 turret. This aircraft was based on the “C” model, note the location of the pitot on the roof. The pilot’s seat suggests this is a stateside aircraft. Something rather phallic about this picture but I won't put my finger on it.

    huey22.jpg

    TAT 101 turret from the front.

    By Army standards, the “E” model was seriously undergunned, to which the Marines response was, “yeh, but it can get off the ground.” Well, they had a point. But still, the aircraft only carried 500 rounds for each gun. Finally, word came out that the system was troublesome and jammed often. The Marines then went to a different system more closely related to the Army’s systems.

    huey23.jpg

    This was sometimes referred to as the TK1 system and was comparable to the system the Army used on early “B” models although there was no movement in the guns, they were aimed by aiming the aircraft. If they stopped firing in the closed bolt position, the gunner had to manually lean out and cock it. Doors were removed because with the ammo chutes attached to the guns the doors could not be closed. Note the mount for the doorgunner’s M-60 attached to the aft bulkhead. The antenna on the tailboom was for HF and the last thing you wanted to do was touch it when the pilot keyed his mike.

    The Marines never really got on an even footing with the Army as far as gunships were concerned until they started using the Cobra, and they have done incredibly well developing that aircraft.

    Another group of unique gunships that appeared in Vietnam came from the Australians who modified their “D” and later “H” models with systems from the U.S. Army. They had four aircraft, appropriately called “Bushrangers,” that they used in a combat support role.

    huey24.gif

    With 6,000 rounds behind the pilots, don’t tell me this aircraft didn’t have balance issues.

    huey25.jpg

    Another view of the Bushranger. The gunner’s ammo box is secured to the gunmount with a seatbelt. Novel. By the way, these are 17 pound warheads on the rockets, ten pounders did not stick out in front of the tubes. Every time I look at this picture, I wonder just what the guy in shorts is thinking.

    And last but not least -



    The story behind this: once upon a time in Southern California lived a car customizer and artist named Ed “Big Daddy” Roth who created this, it came to us as a decal. At one time I had about 20 of them. His signature is underneath the aircraft.
    huey26.jpg
    And finally –
    huey27.jpg
     
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  5. Bombardier

    Bombardier Admin & Arbiter Staff Member Site Admin

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    That was a cool read RW.
    Great information and images. Brilliant! (Y)
     
  6. John A Silkstone United Kingdom

    John A Silkstone Mi General MI.Net Member

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    Well writen RW. It must have taken you ages to get it on site.

    Thanks

    Silky
     
  7. GunBunnyInaMAB

    GunBunnyInaMAB Mi Lieutenant MI.Net Member

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    The line about the minigun sounding like a giant zipper brought back a memory from 1980. While in Graff in West Germany, we were taking it easy and thinking we were so undetectable under our camoflage netting, when suddenly we heard what can only be described as a "chainsaw cutting steel". An A-10 Warthog executed a textbook straffing run on our Battery, effectively tripping all of our laser detectors and wipping out our entire unit. I actually managed to get a picture of his wingman as he began his vertical dive, and if I ever get a scanner I'll have to post it someday.
     
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  8. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    The A-10 probably spotted you with infra-red.

    Silky, it doesn't take long to load a story, I have Windows 7 that really works well for something like that. I wrote the story, complete with pictures in MS Word, loaded the pics in Photobucket, then brought both of those up side by side, put Militaryimages on top and just copied from one or the other. The only hard part was splitting it in 10 photo groups. Jeez, I sound like such an expert, don't I? Actually I am stuck at a rest stop on the information highway.
     
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  9. marine60

    marine60 Guest

    retired

    In re the uh-1e 's , I am a former usmc crew chief and gunner in the above and would like to, say a finer bird I have never flown. ( Also retired airline pilot ). If my fading memory serves me I believe we started installing the tat-101 in 1967, VMO-2 ? Marble Mtn.,vn . Co-driver had control of the sight system OR the sys. could be locked and fired with the side guns. Think it was an all elect sys, (no hyd.) but unsure. Think they only carried one belt per gun as only ordanance serviced them. Did give us an inital gun run of 8 guns, rather impressive till the tat ran dry and we were back to 6 . Dont recall the co-driver using the sight sys. too often as he was rather ouccpied switching the main arm between guns and rockets during a run and calling altitude...W.T.
     
  10. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    No greater love hath a man than for his Huey. Welcome, Marine.

    RW
     
  11. falzon 812!

    falzon 812! Mi Recruit MI.Net Member

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    i just logged in for the first time, and pictures are not visible - is there a problem
     
  12. Bombardier

    Bombardier Admin & Arbiter Staff Member Site Admin

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    The photos should be visible once you register Falzon.
    I can see them ok.
    try refreshing your browser
     
  13. falzon 812!

    falzon 812! Mi Recruit MI.Net Member

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    OK i refreshed and can see the photos - and they are wonderful!!
     
  14. hueandsaigon Spain

    hueandsaigon Mi Lance corporal MI.Net Member

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    [​IMG]

    This was a great helicopter for the time, I don´t know but I love the version with the 4X7.62 machineguns and of course with 70mm rocket pods
     
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  15. hueandsaigon Spain

    hueandsaigon Mi Lance corporal MI.Net Member

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    Good photo with the american version of the ss-11

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. hueandsaigon Spain

    hueandsaigon Mi Lance corporal MI.Net Member

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    [​IMG]

    Wow look at this picture, I never read about this TOW pods. Someone has info about it?
     
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  17. hueandsaigon Spain

    hueandsaigon Mi Lance corporal MI.Net Member

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    Door side gunners

    [​IMG]



    woooohooo Rock and roll babe


    [​IMG]
     
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  18. hueandsaigon Spain

    hueandsaigon Mi Lance corporal MI.Net Member

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  19. hueandsaigon Spain

    hueandsaigon Mi Lance corporal MI.Net Member

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    SaagmiM6008.jpg
     
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  20. Bombardier

    Bombardier Admin & Arbiter Staff Member Site Admin

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