30 More Years of Air Force Hueys

That’s right, the Air Force is interested in keeping its nearly 40 year old fleet of UH-1N Hueys flying for another 30 years!

After years of efforts to replace the aging birds with a slightly bigger, newer chopper capably of ferrying security teams around the service’s vast ICBM fields, the Air Force seems to have abandoned hope of replacing the venerable Hueys and is now focused on making them last and fly faster, further and in any conditions….for a really long time. Can you say budget cuts?

Here’s what the service says it wants in an April 17 Request for Information on the matter:

WR-ALC/GRU Rotary Branch, on behalf of Air Force Global Strike Command is seeking to identify potential sources with the capability of increasing sustainment and capability shortfalls of the UH-1 helicopter.  In terms of mission capable (MC) rates, the UH-1 remains one of the most reliable platforms within the US Air Force inventory.  To provide the UH-1 with an additional 30 years of service and retain its MC rates, the Rotary Branch is attempting to resolve sustainability and capability shortfalls.  The objective of this statement of requirements is to seek sources sought to potentially increase the UH-1s endurance, range, speed, all-weather capability, survivability and provide modernized communication and navigation system capabilities.

To ascertain the capabilities of interested parties to meet the requirements of this effort, interested parties should submit detailed information on their approach for meeting these requirements.  The following potential requirements are being provided as part of the market survey to:

•·       increase the endurance

•·       increase the range

•·       increase the speed

•·       provide all-weather capability

•·       provide greater communication and navigation system capabilities

•·       increase survivability

Planned Acquisition:  The Government is seeking interested sources to fulfill FY14-18 requirements.

The air service — Global Strike Command in particluar — has complained that the 40-year old UH-1Ns are getting expensive to maintain and that they can’t carry a full security team or even make it all the way across a missile field without stopping to refuel. The Air Force also maintains a squadron of Hueys to ferry VIPs around Washington DC and a handful of others scattered around the world doing everything from basic utility flights to search and rescue missions.

The service’s push to keep its current Huey’s comes on the heels of its purchase of surplus Marine Corps UH-1Ns that the Air Force is refurbishing in order to augment its aging fleet and the cancellation of its effort to buy a Huey replacement known as the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP).

Click here to read the rest of Global Strike Command’s request for information from companies that think they can keep the Vietnam era UH-1N’s flying for another 30 years.



  • Mastro

    Here’s an idea :


    Sub ICBM’s are enough- with a few cruise missile nukes if the AF really need to play with atoms.

    Cold War is over baby-

    • DGR

      So if the Cold War is over why waste billions of dollars on Subs? Missle silos are much cheaper…….

      Your logic really doesnt make any sense to me. If we should scrap ICBMs because the cold war is over, then why would we keep building billion dollar subs?

      • tiger

        Sub are not fixed targets. That is why. The triad still works. Keep all 3 methods.

        • DGR

          I totally agree, just pointing out that if we tried to cut ICBMs for cost, I think cutting Subs is the better bet. But im a firm believer that having the triad is still vital for mutually assured destruction to work.

      • Mastro

        We haven’t built any boomer subs in years- when the Ohios need to go- make an enlarged Virginia.

        Yeah - its expensive- but its worth it-

        I don’t see the logic in “Boomers cost $20 billion- so we might as well spend $7 million on Minutemen”

        No- SAVE $7 billion.

        Again- the Cold War is over- and China has about 240 nukes- a triad is no more needed than an octuplet.

        • blight_

          Tiering the ground missile force readiness levels based on DEFCON might cut /some/ costs, but wouldn’t address the persistent maintenance costs involved in scattering a missile force across several states to maximize survivability while paying for hardened command and control infrastructure to operate a dispersed missile force.

          For instance, the air force is shifting more units out of 24-hour alert. We could do the same with the missile force. Say a third of the force is maintained at reduced readiness. We assume that this third will be brought to full readiness based on geopolitical tensions, for instance the Cuban Missile Crisis, which raised DEFCON to the highest known level.

          I wonder if using TELs would cut costs; but it trades the costs of a hardened missile silo for that of a TEL and associated communications vehicles, mobile security detachments, parallel special road system and the like.

  • Pat

    I don’t like the idea too much…
    I think they should either upgrade them to the UH-1Y Venom or just switch them to UH-60.
    But one question… What are they really using the Hueys for anymore?

    • JackBlack

      You pay, they switch.

    • TMB

      They wanted to buy Army UH-60s right off the line, but there was a protest that the Air Force didn’t hold a competition so they gave up on it.

      The Hueys are for patrolling the ICBM bases and escorting nuclear weapons and materials here in the US.

      • WRG01

        Yes…but, the Hueys escort nuclear weapons convoys on the military reservations. DOE picks up security duty when transporting nuclear weapons ‘material’ off of military grounds. Hueys will suffice for this duty, as they have for 40 years…missile field security is about risk management, not absolute risk negation.

    • Phillip Price

      There are missions that can’t be talked about.

      • Mastro

        Generals flying around their girl friends?

  • Lance

    I do agree with pat not on Blackhawks which are too fuel wasting for security missions. But why not buy UH-1Ys from Bell??? I do like the Huey and glad to see the type fly for many years to come. If they can add new avionics and maybe a new engine this baby can kick but they.

    Long live the Hueys!.

    • JackBlack

      Long live the Huey’s, aye!

      Why not buy, do you think the budget is infinite?
      Why do you think they kept them in the first place.

      • Lance

        Just showing respect. Your right the budget isn’t infinite. Some programs need to go but the Huey is cost effective and its a great plane.

  • EMC

    So the last terminator movie where the team rides in on an old Huey will be accurate after all!

    • A. Nonymous

      Only if Skynet becomes self-aware in the next thirty years.

    • http://octopusmagnificens.blogspot.com.es/ octopusmagnificens

      Next step is recommissioning the USS Monitor as littoral combat ship.

      • guess

        Sadly the monitor has more fire power

      • EJ257

        We had perfectly good LCS in the inventory. They are called Iowa-class BB. We could really use one to patrol off the Horn of Africa right now.

  • tiger

    Uh, did we not just ship some perfectly good helicopters to Canada? Sounds like the USAF could have used them.

    • M.L.

      it said ‘other us/govt agencies were interested’ but they were ignored. still can’t get over that me self.

    • blight_

      USAF has no use for one-off 9 helicopter run that’ll eventually run out of parts not already in the parts system.

  • stephen russell

    Needs NOTAR, ducted rear fan thrust, new engines, avionics, better airframe body & your good to GO & adapt to all climates worldwide.
    IE add insulation for winter climes, air -air refuelling?
    add Cargo & weapons pods?
    New avionics a Must.

    • guess

      You realize these copters never leave the US and just transport people around missle fields in like the empty landscape of the Dakotas?

  • David R Ball

    So then why won’t the Air Force buy more UN-1Y’s in the first place…as for the so called competion for a new contract really, we need to break up these to big to fail corperations and get some real competion. Just having two suppliers for anything is a failure point anyway….Like the last 20 years of all defense dept contracts….F-22, F-35 B-2 KC-45 etc….

    • Phillip Price

      It would be overkill. The Marines UH-1Y was built to be highly common with the Cobra. The USAF don’t need that at all. R/Phil

  • Rohan

    Congrtazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz too the Oldiesssss

  • Martin CW0

    The Huey is by far, the best arcraft ever produced; Can take more punishment, fly farther more efficiently, and if given a new powerplant, could exceed even 30 years;
    I’m an old Warrant, and have seen the waste the government allows, just to get a new
    platform for the same work…. Kudos to the Air Force for trying to bring a sensible solution to the table. The Army and Marines should take note!!!
    Matin CW3

    • majr0d

      The Blackhawk carries twice the load.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lem.genovese Lem Genovese

    Yes the Black Hawk is larger, yes it carries more pay load and is faster.
    The HUEY’s ratio of ground maintenance to flight hours is better than the Black Hawk.
    The twin engine HUEY is hand’s down one of the safest rotary aircraft on the planet.
    The HUEY is easier to maintain than the Black Hawk.
    If it ain’t broke, IMPROVE it and SAVE Millions in the process.

  • merf

    but it ain’t pretty, not brand new, doesn’t cost 20 mil.History always proves quantity
    over quality if it costs less make more of them and wear the other guy out.

  • Mark from Germany

    The Airforce wants the old Hueys fly faster, further and in any conditions? The Marinecorps already finished this task with the UH-1 Y. First they had the idea to refurbish the old ones but found out its cheaper to build new ones. Maybe competition between UH-1Y and the cheap Blackhawks from Poland? Or maybe UH-72 Lakota like the Army? Imo there is just one cheaper way: Keep the old Hueys as they are, live with their limitations like the last 40 years and just do some cheap upgrades like new engines. I did not understand the request for “provide all-weather capability” : Is this something the 1N cannot do? And why not?

  • shotbag

    Then why didn’t they haul troops in them in A/stan & OIF instead getting the kids blown to hell by IEDs everyday!

    • Phillip Price

      Shotbag ~ Hueys were removed from Combat Coding around ’88 or so. R/Phil

    • jumper

      Was this supposed to be a serious question?

  • Richard

    What can i say about the past, there was a time back in the early 70’s for stronger engines and upgraded gear boxes on UH-1N and upgrades with avionics……the Air Force was closing many Detachments down from stateside to Southwest Asia ie: Tunisia,Italy,Spain,Libya,Turkey, London,Germany, and few other countries in Europe while a new aircraft was coming up which was the Blackhawks. DOD did not want to spend the money.

  • arias

    Why is it that every week this site runs a new story about how the Airforce supposedly needs a new aircraft for every little task. If you can still put hours on the frame, you don’t need a new one until their is enough advancement in technology that would justify an entirely new aircraft. Keep modifying and updating aircraft as needed.

  • James

    In 1968, While stationed as a security Policeman at F.E.Warren in Wyoming, we used to take Huey’s out to the Launch Control Facilities. They had plenty of room then for all the security troops and site NCOIC. The missile launch officers (Missileers) that were stationed underground always had their own schedule and usually took vehicles out to the LCF. BTW, the food at the LCF was served in foil packs and was some of the best food ever produced by mankind.

    • Phillip Price

      James, And that was with the UH-1F (204 airframe). considerably smaller cabin than the “N” (212 airframe). R/Phil

  • Phillip Price

    Hooray!! Still the best aircraft, pound for pound ever built! Mount St Helens rescues as well as the Las Vegas Casino fire rescues were remarkable feats of H-1 greatness in the most demanding of conditions. By the Way, REA Helicopters has a conformal tank that adds 90 (45 ea tank) gals of fuel. It has been in use on commercial 212s since the late “80s when I was the Huey PM. Bell (and others) can modernize the flight deck and upgrade the powerplants and CGB and the Air Force is in business. Fly on forever, Mr Huey!

    • blight_

      I wonder if fuel economy is all that the air force is looking for.

      Modernizing along the lines of the Marines might be the way.

      • Phillip Price

        The Marines did a lot of changes to make their “N”s more common with the Cobra. The Air Force don’t need that at all! R/Phil

        • blight_

          Sure they do! You can protect a train with nuclear materials with a 20mm and Hellfires better than a Huey.

          Then again, maybe the army would complain that it infringes on Army attack aviation…

  • Phillip Price

    Correction! conformal tanks by ERA Helicopters, Lake Charles, LA. Darn spell check. My bad. R/Phil

  • Rob Roy

    It just seems odd to me that we cannot produce better aircraft these days that the ones built in the 60’s. ie, Huey, SR-71, C-5, U2, etc.

  • Steve

    The Aussie’s had tricked up UH-1’s they called Bushrangers. Looked like the Hind in Rambo 3, and surprisingly had a third rotor blade.
    They made the mistake of going for Black Hawk too, and gave the Kiwis the hueys.

  • Don W

    Why not use the Air Force version of the CV-22 Osprey?

    • Mastro

      I’ll go out on a limb and say $$$$$$$$$$$$

      • blight_

        Especially for a domestic mission.

  • Shamon

    Wait a minute, what about some more of those HH60 Pave Hawks? I know the rescue units have them (or used to, its been a few years for me) those wouldn’t fit the bill?

  • William Powell

    I started flying the HUEY’s in 1961 in flight school. I flew many hours and felt safe all of the time. The last HUEY I flew was the 214 in 1974 in Iran. God it had power. I think with a new rotor system it would do wonders. We need to save money in these hard times.

  • AIrmonkey123

    Look guys, take it from a active duty chopper pilot who is both Blackhawk and Huey qulaified and just spent 2.5 years flying the last Army active duty Hueys at Ft Polk (2009). The Huey is fine for state side tasks like monitoring large areas of terrain which I am guessing are what the ICBM fields are comprised of. The Huey is cheap and in part because the Defense Dept has a decades old established supply and maintenance infrastructure for the bird. The single engine is also simpler to maintain than most other machines. Adding another engine to the Huey and a four bladed rotor system will yield a helicopter that is comparable to the Blackhawk in power and lift capability; and probably for less cost. And another point(s): helicopters are never going to advance much more in the traditional Sikorsky main rotor/ tail rotor design than what we exeperience today. i.e. forward speed will always remain about 150 knots max. Our Hueys could do 124 max. The single engine Huey is a relatively simple bird to teach new young pilots to fly and operate and combined with realtive simple maintentance programs in a future post nuclear war one could expect to see single enigne Hueys still operating.

  • http://www.beatsmonstersale.net Monster Beats Cheap

    This blog has lots from useful objects about it! I appreciate letting my family!

  • http://www.rbap.org/2009/04/philippine-prudential-life-insurance-public-statement/ Darryll Young

    They better insure both the choppers and the crew operating them while they’re at it. Even with the best maintenance, just the thought of 50, 60, and 70-year old machines poses a lot of safety risks.