The Vietnam War was the first armed conflict in which the helicopter played a key role, both as a transport and combat aircraft. Taking part in many battles, the US Army and US Marines massively used different types of helicopters throughout the war, from 1960, when the first US military advisers set foot in South Vietnam, under the Eisenhower Administration, to 1974, when the last US soldiers were withdrawn from Southeast Asia, under the Nixon Administration. Basically four types were employed in this war: cargo, transport, utility, and attack helicopter in support of ground troops. We can say the they constituted the bulk of the air supply line as well as the flying weapon of the US Army’s Infantry.
List of US Helicopters in Vietnam According to its Strategic Importance
– Bell UH-1 Huey. Not only was it the most massively used in Vietnam, but also came to symbolize the war. This utility helicopter was used as a troop transport, for insertion of infantry units in enemy territory, medic evacuation, and for ground attack missions. For this last role, it was fitted with 70mm rockets and two machine guns. Maximum speed: 135 mph (217 km/h). Range: 315 miles.
– Boeing CH-47 Chinook. It was employed as a cargo and troop transport helicopter. Entering service in 1962. It was first employed in Vietnam in late 1965, replacing the H-21 Shawnee. Capacity: 55 troops or 12,700 kg cargo. Maxim speed: 196 mph (315 km/h). Range: 450 miles (741 km).
– Piasecki H-21 Shawnee. Making its first flight in 1952, it served in Vietnam since the beginning of the war and was the first aircraft specially designed as a troop transport helicopter, also being used in military supply missions. Like the Chinook, it was also fitted with two in-tandem main rotors. Due to its shape, it was called the “flying banana”. It was withdrawn from Vietnam in 1967. Capacity: 20 troops. Maximum speed: 127 mph (204 km/k). Range: 265 miles (427 km).
– Bell AH-1 Cobra. It was the first attack helicopter used in combat specifically designed for this purpose. In service with the US Army and US Marines, it was first deployed in Vietnam in late 1967 and was used in combat operations during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Weapons: one 20mm M197 Gatling gun, mounted underneath its nose; twenty-six 70mm Hydra rockets. Maximum speed: 196 mph (315 km/h). Range: 320 miles (527 km).
– Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw. Developed from the H-19 “Chickasaw”, it was a piston-engine helicopter used by the South Vienamese Army in the troop transport, medic evacuation, and reconnaissance roles between 1959 and 1968. It was also used by the US Marine Corps as a gunship helicopter for a short while.
– CH-54 Tarhe. Although it was used almost exclusively as a cargo helicopter, it was also employed occasionally as a troop transport, thanks to the module system it employed. It was first depoloyed in Southeast Asia in 1963. Capacity: 9,000 kg. Maximum speed: 150 mph. Range: 230 miles.
The most widely used chopper in Vietnam: UH-1 Huey (video)