Bell Helicopter built the Bell UH-1Y Venom, also known as Super Huey, under the US Marine Corps’ H-1 upgrade program.
This twin-engine, medium-sized utility helicopter is a recent member of the extensive Huey family. People also refer to the UH-1Y as “Yankee,” reflecting the NATO phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter. Initially, plans called for re manufacturing UH-1Ns into UH-1Ys.
However, in 2005, officials approved the construction of brand-new aircraft. Subsequently, the UH-1Y entered service in 2008, replacing the USMC’s UH-1N Twin Huey light utility helicopters.
These predecessors first came into use in the early 1970s. Soon after, the UH-1Y reached full-rate production in 2008. Lastly, deliveries to the Marines concluded in 2018.
Bell Helicopter designed and produced the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, commonly nicknamed “Huey,” as a utility military helicopter.
This helicopter is the pioneering member of the renowned Huey family and marks the first turbine-powered helicopter to serve the United States military.
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Development began in the early 1950s, driven primarily by the U.S. Army’s need for a new medical evacuation and utility helicopter.
Consequently, the Bell 204, first flown on October 20, 1956, received notable acclaim. The acclaim particularly focused on its single turboshaft engine’s performance, superior to its piston-engine counterparts.
Upgrading the HUEY
Over the years, innovations such as new avionics, radios, door guns, and safety upgrades have significantly increased the UH-1N’s empty weight. T
his helicopter has a maximum speed of around 100 knots and has limited transport capabilities due to its inability to lift much beyond its own crew, fuel, and ammunition.
In 1996, aiming to enhance utility and attack capabilities, the U.S. Marine Corps initiated the H-1 upgrade program. Consequently, a contract emerged with Bell Helicopter to upgrade 100 UH-1Ns to UH-1Ys and 180 AH-1Ws to AH-1Zs.
This program aimed to modernize helicopters, maintaining design commonality to cut operating costs.
Remarkably, the UH-1Y and AH-1Z share more than 84% identical components, including tail boom, engines, rotor system, drivetrain, avionics, software, controls, and displays.
Initially, plans stated the UH-1Y would be remanufactured from UH-1N airframes, but by April 2005, building them as new helicopters received approval.
Bell supplied two UH-1Ys to the Marine Corps in February 2008, and by September 2009, full-rate production commenced. Consequently, the Marine Corps acquired 160 Y-models to replace their existing inventory of N-models.
Features of the UH-1Y
The UH-1Y variant revitalizes the UH-1 design, updating pilot avionics to a glass cockpit and incorporating additional safety modifications. Furthermore, it equips the UH-1 with a state-of-the-art forward-looking infrared system, amplifying engine power.
One significant enhancement is a four-blade, all-composite rotor system, resilient to up to 23 mm rounds.
These modifications, including replacing the engines and two-bladed rotor system with four composite blades, refocus the Huey back to its original utility role. Additionally, a 21-inch extension forward of the main door increases capacity.
The UH-1Y also boasts upgraded transmissions and a modern digital cockpit with multifunctional flat-panel displays. Compared to the UH-1N, the Y-model promises a higher payload, nearly 50% more range, diminished vibration, and increased cruising speed.
The helicopter accommodates two pilots, seated side-by-side behind the short nose cone, enjoying extensive visibility due to oversized windshields.
They enter through hinged, automobile-style doors on the fuselage sides. Behind this, the passenger compartment has large, rectangular sliding doors.
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The twin engine compartment is located above, powering the main and the four-bladed tail rotors.
Horizontal planes are situated well-aft along the tail boom. The undercarriage features a straightforward four-point skid arrangement.
An optics set is mounted at the aircraft’s “chin” position, and the fuselage has two outboard hardpoints for rocket or gun pods. Doors can also accommodate machine guns or Gatling Guns on pintle systems, allowing the UH-1Y to function as a gunship.
The UH-1Y and AH-1Z finished developmental testing in early 2006. Subsequently, the UH-1Ys were moved to the Operational Test Unit at NAS Patuxent River, initiating operational evaluation testing. By February 2008, both helicopters commenced the final segment of their testing.
On 8 August 2008, the Marine Corps declared the UH-1Y operationally capable. Consequently, it saw its first deployment in January 2009, accompanying the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s aviation combat element.
The UH-1N Twin Huey subsequently retired in August 2014, solidifying the UH-1Y as the Marines’ principal utility helicopter.
Later, on 11 October 2017, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency informed the United States Congress about a potential sale of 12 UH-1Ys to the Czech Republic, valued at US$575 million. Finally, approval for an order of eight UH-1Y helicopters came in December 2019.