While helicopters were used during the Korean War, it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that their full potential was used. Observation, transport, and attack duties were fulfilled by many different models. This post tries to list the most important choppers.
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois, better known as Huey, is the most iconic helicopter of the Vietnam War. The UH-1B version was used from 1963 on. The UH-1C (improved engine and some other modifications) was used as gunship, carrying a nose-mounted grenade launcher and side-mounted machine guns and rockets.
As short-body Hueys did not have enough troop carrying capacity, the stretched UH-1D version was developed. The Army started taking deliveries in 1963. An upgraded engine yielded the UH-1H version, the most numerous one. Deliveries started at the end of 1967. Other, less numerous versions were the UH-1E (USMC version of the B/C model), UH-1F (USAF version), and UH-1M (UH-1C with the engine of the UH-1H).
The first true attack helicopter, the Bell AH-1G Cobra, was developed out of the UH-1. Deliveries started in 1967. The chin turret could hold 7.62mm miniguns and 40mm grenade launchers, while the stub wings provided 4 hardpoints for rockets, miniguns, and 20mm cannons.
The Bell H-13 Sioux served not only in the Korean War, but also as observation helicopter early in the Vietnam War.
The H-13 was replaced by the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, known as Loach, starting in 1966. Hughes was not able to meet production demands, resulting in the adoption of the Bell OH-58 Kiowa as second light observation helicopter. The first models arrived in Vietnam in August of 1969.
The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite and Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King were used by the Navy for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. The Air Force flew its CH-3 and HH-3 versions as Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters. The Air Force also used the Kaman HH-43 Huskie as rescue helicopter.
Very early in the war, the Piasecki H-21 Shawnee was used by the Army, but soon replaced by the UH-1. The Sikorsky CH-34 Choctaw also saw only very limited use by the Army, but was used by the Marines in greater numbers until 1968.
The Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight was used by Marine Corps and Navy throughout the war.
It’s larger brother, the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, was the Army’s most important heavy lift helicopter. It was capable of lifting artillery pieces and became invaluable for equipping and supplying fire support bases. Four were modified into ACH-47 gunships.
The Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion was used by the Marines from 1967. The HH-53 “Super Jolly Green Giant” version was used by the Air Force for the rescue of downed pilots.
The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe, better known as “skycrane”, was also used in Vietnam, but its role was later taken over by the Chinook.