The venerable Huey is still hard at work for the Pentagon. The USAF in particular continues to operate a fleet of 59 UH-1Ns primarily as missile silo tenders and security aircraft for America’s land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles located in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. The type is also used for transporting VIPs around Washington DC.
The exact UH-1N Iroquois, also called the “Twin Huey” because of its twin turbine power-pack, shown in the photo is based at Minot AFB in North Dakota and is part of the 54th helicopter squadron.
This aircraft in particular was contracted for construction by the USAF in 1969, and it was most likely delivered that same year, making it nearly 50 years old. Although these helicopters have received some upgrades, including night-vision compatible cockpits and FLIR turrets under their noses, along with previous life extension modifications, the USAF has been trying to replace them for years under various initiatives and funding schemes. None of these ever panned out and the UH-1Ns continue to soldier on till this very day.
With the latest Defense Department budget requesting funding to address America’s aging ground-based leg of its nuclear triad, it looks like at least some of the UH-1Ns may finally be set for a replacement. As far as what helicopter would take up its role remains unclear.
Refurbished Black Hawks were once on the short list as a replacement, but it is likely that something commercially available off the shelf, possibly a version of the UH-72 Lakota or the USMC’s UH-1Y Venom could take up the UH-1N’s LGM-30G Minuteman Missile support mission.
As for the 1st Helicopter Squadron’s glossy blue, white and gold UH-1N VIP transports that have become fixtures on the Washington DC skyline, something tells me they will be around for many years to come.
The adage goes that when the last Black Hawk is dropped off at the boneyard its crew will fly home on a Huey. This may be an exaggeration, but variants of the type continue to be produced and are deep in the fight the better part of a century since the first Huey took to the skies.
Images via USAF