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Inside the Archive: Bell Iroquois

While it’s true that RAAF operated Dragonflys and Sycamores in the 1950s, it was only when Australia obtained the Iroquois that it obtained true rotor power. The iconic Bell UH-1B was a coming-of-age moment for military helicopters. It could quickly transport five fully armed troops or equivalent cargo and sported an M60 machine gun for protection.

However, some background is needed: the original prototype Bell XH-40 entered service with the US Army in 1959 as the UH-1, but was better known as “Huey”. RAAF’s No. 9 Squadron received its first in 1962, and the aircraft and its variants served until 1985. While its military service is perhaps what it’s most famous for – particularly stints in Vietnam – it was arguably most effective for search and rescue. RAN, too, operated seven concurrently with RAAF. With the loss of RAAF’s rotor capability, the final 25 Iroquois were transferred to the Army’s No. 171 Squadron and Aviation School at Oakey and No. 5 Aviation Regiment at Townsville.

If you want to see one for yourself, the Australian War Memorial is home to A2-1019, which has quite the story. The aircraft served in Vietnam and completed 489 missions, including one where it crash-landed before being airlifted by a US Chinook to Vung Tau. It dusted itself down and returned to operation before later enjoying a semi-retirement for No. 2 Flying Training School at RAAF Pearce, conducting search and rescue operations.

Inside the Archive: Bell Iroquois Comment

  • David McKeand


    Many fond memories from an old Flight Fitter B (Elec). Canberra 9 Squadron, Williamtown Search and Rescue and Malaysia Butterworth 9 Squadron Detachment A, during 1962/64.

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