The Bell UH-1A "Huey" Armed Helicopter

The Bell UH-1A armed helicopter was the first "Huey" model. Originally built solely for the purpose of evaluation, it was quickly pressed into service by the Army. The first Hueys arrived in Vietnam in March 1962.

The Bell UH-1A crew consisted of a pilot and to his left the gunner co-pilot, with a crew chief and a gunner at the ammunition trays as loader. Armed with M2 automatic carbines, they covered the areas not swept by the fixed-mount machine guns. Using this field expedient, they were surprisingly effective and, even back in 1963, had been credited several kills.

The UH-1A's two fixed-mount .30 caliber machine guns were mounted forward on the skids, one on each side. They were fired by the pilot through an electro-solenoid. However, it had become evident that the target was not so much enemy soldiers as an area of vegetation in which enemy soldiers were skillfully hidden, rising to fire, then disappearing into dense cover.

The fixed machine guns could not be depended upon to saturate such an area with lethal fire. The weapon needed here was a rocket which would fragment and make any part of an area untenable. Accordingly, 16 rocket launchers were installed on the UH-1A, eight to each side, so mounted on the skids that they fired to the side of the machine guns. This was done at Okinawa, before the aircraft were moved to Southeast Asia.

The rocket proved an ideal weapon for the armed helicopter. It dealt most effectively with the Viet Cong in their favorite maneuver: The ambush. A combined machine gun and rocket run on an area smashed the hide-and-seek tactics of the guerrilla enemy.