America’s “Happy Hooker," The CH-47 Chinook
If you want to talk about multi-tasking, you've found the right aircraft in the CH-47 Chinook. This story explores the CH-47 aircraft from the time of its first appearance in combat in Vietnam in 1965 to its present use in Afghanistan, including its emergency use responding to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. We'll even give you an aircraft "walk-around."
December 13, 2006
We cover a lot of ground here:
- Tandem rotor helicopters, a brief history
- CH-47 walk-around
- The H-21, a tandem rotor goes to fight in Vietnam
- The Chinook gets its initiation in the Vietnam War
- Fast forward to Afghanistan, at war, and Pakistan, a humanitarian role
What is a CH-47? The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) describes the CH-47 this way:
"The CH-47 is a twin-engine, tandem rotor helicopter designed for transportation of cargo, troops, and weapons during day, night, visual, and instrument conditions. The aircraft fuselage is approximately 50 feet long. With a 60-foot rotor span, on each rotor system, the effective length of a CH-47 (with blades turning) is approximately 100 feet from the most forward point of the forward rotor to the most rearward point on the aft rotor."
"Maximum airspeed is 170 knots with a normal cruise speed of 130 knots. However, speed for any mission will vary greatly depending on load configuration (internal or external), time of day, or weather conditions. The minimum crew for tactical operations is four, two pilots, one flight engineer, and one crew chief. For more complex missions, such as NVG (night-vision goggle) operations and air assaults, commanders may consider using five crew members and add one additional crew chief."
You'll have to be a little careful when studying the Chinook not to confuse it with the Navy-Marine CH-46 "Sea Knight," also produced by Boeing. It too is a tandem rotor helicopter.
CH-46 Sea Knight. Presented by Global Security.
CH-47 Chinook. Presented by Global Security.
The CH-47 is much larger than the CH-46. But the best way for an amateur to tell the difference is to look at the sides of the aircraft. The CH-46 Sea Knight has a "sponson" sticking out from the fuselage on each side of the aft portion of the aircraft. The sponson is like a little wing that adds stabilization. The CH-47 does not have this, but instead has long tubular extrusions out the sides of the bottom of the fuselage, which house fuel tanks. One other way to tell the difference is that the CH-46 has only three landing gears, while the CH-47 has four. The CH-46's front single landing gear is far forward, under the cockpit, while the CH-47's two front gears are positioned further to the rear.
The Army is the only service to operate the CH-47, though it will carry infantry and other ground forces from any service, any country, and will move equipment for any service. The introduction of the HH-47 will mark the first time the USAF has operated the aircraft in combat.
Photo was taken during Operation Mountain Resolve, a month-long operation launched in November 2003 to round up Afghan rebels in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar and Nuristan Provinces. The picture shows a CH-47 Chinook helicopter being lowered onto a roof to receive Afghans taken by the Army's 10th Mountain Division. Presented by Vietnam Veterans of America, Western Massachusetts, Chapter One Eleven
You have probably seen this photo before. We highlight it to underscore that when you talk about the CH-47, you are talking about multi-tasking and versatility. This is a photo of a Chinook in Afghanistan picking up some troops from a remote outpost in what the professionals call a pinnacle landing; butt down, forward cabin up, hovering in place to pick up or drop off. We understand from an article done by Jim Goldsworthy for western Maryland's Cumberland Times-News that the photo was taken by Sgt. Greg Heath, USA, 4th Public Affairs detachment. We understand from the same article that the pilot was Larry Murphy, Pennsylvania National Guard, in civilian life, an EMS pilot at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Tandem rotor helicopters, a brief history
Fundamentally, a tandem rotor helicopter is one with twin main rotors, one in the front, one in the back, with no tail rotor. The Helicopter Page by Glenn S. Boom has a nice description with good graphics which we commend to you.
The Florine helicopter, circa 1929-30. Presented by J. Gordon Leishman, University of Maryland
Nicholas Florine, a Russian-born engineer, built one of the first successful tandem rotor helicopters, in Belgium, in 1929-30. He improved on his design over time, but experienced multiple problems and the idea became dormant during WWII.
The US Coast Guard was an early advocate of the helicopter, among the first organizations in the world to see the helicopter as a useful machine. During WWII, it needed an aircraft for at-sea rescues of crews from ships torpedoed by the Germans along the US coast. The USCG envisioned the need to carry very heavy loads, up to 1,800 lbs, and it felt the Navy had nothing that could handle the job. As a result, the tandem rotor helicopter found its first requirements, from the Coast Guard (USCG) during WWII.
The Coast Guard's Lieutenant Commander F.A. Erickson, fifth from the left in the above photo, and his 1st Coast Guard Helicopter Detachment, were pioneers in helicopter flying. Presented by helis.com.
Commander Frank Erickson and his men were leaders in the field. We have some information on the Coast Guard's early helicopter activities in an article entitled, “No compromise. No rationalization. No Hesitation. Fly the mission. Now!"
Before proceeding further, we will warn you that helicopter nomenclature in the early days can drive you nuts. That said, let's move ahead.
XHRP-1 Dog Ship first flight, March 7, 1945. F.N. Piasecki, pilot; G. Towson, copilot, sitting behind the pilot. This was a flying mock-up flown as a control demonstrator, without its fabric cover. Presented by Piasecki Aircraft Corp.
Piasecki described the tandem rotor concept this way:
"Two rotors permitted a low disk loading, yet allowed the blade spars to be within available material length. The tandem design provided a significant increase in center of gravity travel, thus negating the need for shifting ballast, as was necessary in single rotor helicopters. Since a tail rotor was not needed to counter the main rotor torque, more weight could be lifted with a given engine. It carried 10 men and reached 95 miles per hour without its fuselage covering. Critics predicted that downwash from the front rotor in forward flight would cause severe rear rotor turbulence, spoiling its control capability. This never happened when the proper differential collective pitch was added to the longitudinal control. Eighteen-hundred pound external loads (world’s first log lift) were lifted with two, then one load line. An autorotative test was made with the interconnecting shaft between the rotors disengaged, as well as disengaging the engine."
XHRP-X performs world's first log lift (1,800 lbs.) - 1946, F.N. Piasecki, pilot; Lou Leavitt, co-pilot. Presented by Piasecki Aircraft Corp.
The XHRP-X Dogship officially became the HRP-1 "Rescuer," better known by observers as the "Flying Banana" and the "Sagging Sausage." She had a fabric covered fuselage. The company called it the PV-3. She could hold as many as ten passengers, depending on how many crew and how much fuel she carried. The Navy, acting as executive agent for the Coast Guard and Marines, received deliveries from 1947 through 1949. At the time, this was the world's largest helicopter.
HRP-1 ladder demonstration at inauguration of Idelwild Airport, August 1948. Presented by Piasecki Corp.
The Coast Guard and Navy used this aircraft for rescue. The Navy also would use it for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) sonor "dipping."
HRP-1 (Piasecki) helicopter, taken at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, January 30, 1951. Presented by Waypoints: A digital archive of US Coast Guard History.
Twelve of the aircraft bought by the Navy were assigned to the Marines for landing exercises; three others were assigned to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard received its birds in 1948. All three were stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina. They did a lot of experimenting, mostly crafted by Commander Erickson and his team, including on-the-water landings, use of new hoists, rescue baskets, rescue harnesses, shipboard landings, and flood relief.
Lt. David Oliver, piloting, Lt. MacLane at the co-pilot and Lt. Thometz, a doctor, ran the USCG's first recorded search and rescue mission on December 31, 1948, carrying a 14 month old baby girl with pneumonia from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to the hospital in Elizabeth. They flew aboard HRP No. 13 for this mission. The young girl survived.
HUP "Retriever" for the fleet. Presented by Piasecki.
In 1945, the Navy went to another Piasecki tandem helicopter, known as the XHJP-1 to Piasecki, HUP-1, 2, 3 and 4 "Retriever" to the Navy, and the H-25 "Mule" to the Army. The Navy wanted her for spotting, rescue and utility missions conducted from battleships and cruisers, while the Army wanted her for light cargo and utility. The Retriever was a six-to-eight-place machine for rescues. Both the Retriever and the Mule could handle a useful load of about 1,650 lb once fuel and crew were loaded up. The Navy received its first Retriever in 1951 and flew them until 1964. The Army bought 63 but later turned them over to the Navy.
HO3S helicopter aboard the USS Philippine Sea (CV-47), October 1950 during operations off Korea. Presented by Naval Historical Center.
Following WWII, the Marines did not have a helicopter they could use to lift more than two troops. It was known as the HO3S-1. In fact, the Marines were the last American military service to receive helicopters. Nonetheless, they formed their first helicopter squadron, an experimental helicopter squadron, HMX-1, at Quantico, Virginia, in January 1948. The "H" was for helicopter, "M" for Marine, and "X" for experimental.
Interestingly, the requirement for such a squadron grew out of the use of A-bombs against Japan. The Marines worried that traditional amphibious landings concentrated many troops and equipment in a relatively small space, very vulnerable to these weapons. The Marines wanted to be able to allow more diffuse amphibious attacks, and saw the transport helicopter as a means to effect that.
HMX-1 practiced with what they had, simulating landing a regimental combat team and its equipment ashore using the HO3S-1, its crew and two ground combat Marines on each run from the USS Palau (CVE-122).
HMX-1 Piasecki HRP-1 at Quantico, 1949. One Marine pilot commented, "About all I could say about this bird was that it was underpowered, shuddered, and was wrapped in fabric." Presented by popasmoke.
By late 1948, though, the Marines received their first HRP-1s, which could carry 8-10 troopers. Thus started Marine Corps helicopter amphibious assault.
Marine HRS-1 "Chickasaw" helicopters launching from the USS Sicily off Korea, 1952. Presented by the Naval Historical Center.
That said, the Marines did not take the HRP-1 to the Korean war, instead using the little HO3S-1, followed by the HRS-1 "Chickasaw" manufactured by rival Sikorsky, a competitor of the HRP-1. The Marines used the HRP-1 mainly to do tests and evaluations, especially in the tactics development arena. The Marines wanted a transport helicopter that could carry heavy payloads. By 1949 the Marines were talking about a 3,000 lb payload transport chopper. But they were reluctant to go to the tandem rotor.
So for the Marines, in the Korean War, the Sikorsky HRS-1 Chickasaw was the preferred helicopter. You can see the Chickasaw was a single rotor with tail rotor design. She was used for multiple missions in the Korean War, including troop lift, rescue and transport of heavy equipment and supplies, and air assault. All the other services also bought this aircraft. Over 1,000 were made for the US military. The Marines conducted their first helicopter-landing of a combat unit in history on September 21, 1951 using Chickasaws, enabling troops to capture hill 884 in Korea.
Piasecki PV-17-HRP-2, 1949. Presented by All the World's Rotorcraft.
The HRP-2 was the next tandem rotor helicopter to pop out from Piasecki. In June 1948, the Navy ordered five "examples" of the PV-17 and designated it the HRP-2. She had a metal fuselage instead of fabric, better visibility, and the pilots sat next to each other instead of one behind the other. The HRP-2 was a major improvement over the HRP-1, but she was too light and could not carry the loads now being envisioned by the services. Only five were built.
Next out of the Piasecki chute was the YH-21.
USAF CH-21B "Workhorse" at the National Museum of the USAF. Presented by the National Museum of the USAF.
The USAF ordered 18 YH-21s from Piasecki Helicopter Corp. in 1949 for evaluation and service trials. They then ordered 32 H-21As for the Military Air Transport Service's (MATS) Air Rescue Service (ARS) followed by orders for the B-model to serve as an assault transport for the Troop Carrier Command (TCC). All together, the USAF bought 214 H-21s. Deliveries began in 1953 and the first off the line went into Arctic service.
The H-21 operated well in frigid weather. It quickly began servicing US and Canadian forces working in the northern regions of Alaska, Canada and Greenland in support of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line installations. The USAF version was called the "Workhorse."
Arctic view of US-USSR dispositions during the Cold War. Presented by Cold War Stories, Related Tales & Commentaries.
The USAF needed a helicopter with "long legs;" i.e., long range. The H-21 could be mounted with wheels, skids or floats. A new word was hatched to describe this capability: "omniphibious."
The Marines did not buy into the CH-21, even though the aircraft interested them. As we mentioned earlier, they went to Korea with the HRS-1 "Chickasaw." The Marines stuck with Sikorsky, buying into its HUS (Helicopter Utility Sikorsky) series of helicopters, all of which were single rotor with tail rotor designs. The Marines' first heavy lift helicopter was the HR2S-1, which the Army also bought, naming it the CH-37 "Mojave."
CH-37 Mojave attempting to lift a crashed CH-21 Shawnee. Presented by wikipedia
Tandem rotor buffs won't like this photo too much, a CH-37 attempting to lift a crashed CH-21. We don't know if the Mojave got this job done, but the CH-37 was a heavy lifter. The Marines would go on to outfit their transport squadrons with 309 HUS variants, all single rotor. It would be interesting to study why the Marines stayed clear of the tandem rotor.
Piasecki CH-21 "Shawnee" for the Army. Presented by All the World's Rotorcraft.
The Army, however, not only bought the CH-21, but used them from 1949 to 1964. The Army bought 334 "C-Models", and, in the tradition of using American Indian names for its helicopters, named it the "Shawnee." The Army employed the Shawnee in its first combat tests in Korea, but the Shawnee emerged as a hard-worker during the Vietnam War. She was the first American military helicopter to deploy to Vietnam in significant numbers. The first four Shawnee units arrived in South Vietnam between December 1961 and September 1962 and remained the backbone of Army aviation in Vietnam until 1964, replaced by the UH-1 "Iroquois," better known as the "Huey." Most Shawnees were withdrawn from active service by 1965.
In the mid-1950s, Franck Piasecki left his company, we understand, bitterly, and began a new one, using his name. So the company he left renamed itself "Vertol" (Vertical Take-Off & Landing). Boeing bought Vertol in 1960. It was first named Boeing Vertol, then Boeing Helicopters. This company would build two of the more famous helicopters made in the US, both tandem rotors, the CH-46 Sea Knight and the CH-47 Chinook. We are going to concentrate on the Chinook, but here they are, "side-by-each."
Navy Boeing-Vertol UH-46D. Photo credit: Photographer's Mate Airman Byron Gilbert. Presented by Vectorsite.
Army CH-47A "Chinook," on display at Camp San Luis Obispo. Presented by the California Military Museum.
Vertol began studying "how to" develop a new medium-lift helicopter using the HUP-1 "Retriever" and H-21 "Workhorse-Mule" configurations and based on the H-21's rotor system. A prototype, called by the company the V-107, began in 1957 and she took her first flight in 1958.
The Army ordered 10 production aircraft in mid-1958 and designated it the YHC-1A. The Army also asked for a larger aircraft, similarly designed, and the company designated it the V-114. The Army ordered five prototypes, and designated it the YHC-1B. For the company, the result was it was building two different developmental aircraft at the same time. It could not handle the myriad challenges of doing that, which forced it to sell out to Boeing.
The Army stepped away from the small YHC-1A and opted for the larger YHC-1B. But the Marines liked the YHC-1A and designated it the HRB-1. At long last, the Department of Defense (DoD) stepped in to end the nomenclature madness, and introduced a new "tri-service" uniform designation system. The HRB-1, or YHC-1A, became the CH-46A Sea Knight, while the YHC-1B became the CH-47A Chinook.
We're not going to talk much about the Sea Knight. There are some design differences. The big one is that the Chinook is bigger, she has fuel tanks running the length of the fuselage, and four fixed landing gears.
The CH-47A could carry 33 fully-equipped troopers or 6,000 lbs of internal cargo. She could lift 13,000 lbs externally.
Here's an impressive lineup, presented by rotors.org.
Left to right, top to bottom, CH-47 Chinook, CH-46 Sea Knight, CH-21 Shawnee, and the HUP-1 Retriever - CH-25 Mule.
Let's assemble some photography of the CH-47 to "walk-around" it and through it. Photography to display was hard to find, so we will have to mix up models. We do wish to highlight a first-class site dedicated to the Chinook, called chinook-helicopter.com. We commend it to you. You have to be patient looking for things, but we guarantee you it is the best we have seen.
This is the nose art for CH-47D serial 89-00138, photographed circa July 2002, assigned to the F Co., 159th Aviation Regiment, "Big Windy." Presented by chinook-helicopter.com
You know you're researching a great topic when a web site dedicated to the CH-47 stars you off with a photo of "American Pie's" nose art, and then says, "CH-47 Chinook Helicopter, More Hookers than a Las Vegas showroom."
The CH-47A, B and C all fought in Vietnam. The D-model became the model of preference following the war, and Ds and Es are being used in today's military. There is also a special operations variant known as the MH-47E. And finally, there is an effort in train to upgrade the CH-47 fleet to an F-model and the MH-47 to a G-model. Our understanding is the MH-47G would be adjusted to serve as the HH-47 CSAR version.
In the gee-whiz category, the "chinook wind" is a warm, dry wind that blows down the east side of the Rocky Mountains at the end of winter. The Chinook is also a member of the American Indian people originally inhabiting the region around the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. The Army has long preferred to give its helicopters Native American nicknames.
Fundamentally, the improvements over time have been to increase lift capacity, speed and altitude capabilities, improve the cockpit to reduce pilot workload, enhance range, reduce vulnerability, and add day-night, all-weather capabilities.
Using the D-model as a point of reference, she is 98 ft. 10 in. long, 18 ft. 11 in. high. Her minimum crew is three: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. She will almost always carry one or two more, a crew chief and tail gunner. The crew chief often also operates another gun. Her troop capacity is 33, or a 24 litter and 3 attendant capacity. Her empty weight is 22,450 lbs, and maximum take-off weight is 50,000 lb. Maximum speed is 170 knots, range 1,280 miles, and service ceiling 8,500 ft. She has two Textron Lycoming T-55-L712 engines, each with 5,069 horses. The US Army alone has taken delivery of about 480 D-models.
Views from the outside
This frontal shot gives you a good sense for the size and expanse of the rotors and their "droop," which reflects their flexibility. Presented by Salt Hill Airshow.
The front cockpit cabin, as we look at them, pilot to the right, co-pilot to the left. Note the glass on either side from about their waists down. This provides them a good view of the ground, enhancing their depth perception. This CH-47 is from Detachment 1, Co. G, 140th Aviation, Nevada Army National Guard. Presented by Defense Link.
Port side view, CH-47D. Presented by Robbert's photos of visitors to Soesterburg AB, The Netherlands.
Good close-up of the co-pilot sitting on the starboard side. Note the position of his legs and his feet on the pedals. This is Capt. Jeff Bartkoski, USN, Commanding Officer, Amphibious Command Ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). He is in the cockpit of an Army B Co., 2-52nd Aviation Regiment CH-47 conducting multiple landing evaluation operations aboard the Blue Ridge, March 2006. Photo credit: JOSN Marc Rockwell-Pate, USN. Presented by Defense Link.
A nice look at the aerodynamic shape of a rotor blade, much the same as that of a wing on a fixed wing aircraft. These blades are made of fiberglass. Note the scratching on the forward outer edge of the blade. That is erosion from debris in the air. Sand, for example, is hard on the blades. Leading edge cover protectors have been developed to reduce the erosion. Presented by Salt Hill Airshow.
This is a nice view of the rotor mechanisms in the forward pylon. Much of that consists of the transmission system. The photo was taken at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, a main supply point for the forward bases. Photo credit: SSgt Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF. Presented by Defense Link.
This is the starboard machine gun, a 7.62mm M60D general-purpose machine gun in the door gunner's position, just to the rear of the cockpit cabin. That is the crew chief assigned to B Co., 159th Aviation Battalion, mounting the gun before conducting a mission at Bagram AB, Afghanistan. Photo credit: SSgt Jeremy T. Lock, USAF. Presented by Defense Link.
In the top shot, Army Cpl. Charlette Henager is refueling a CH-47 on the starboard side in Islamabad, Pakistan. This is a nice closeup shot of the refueling system under a hatch on the side of the aircraft. Photo credit: Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski, USAF. The second shot gives you an overview of where the refueling is done on the aircraft. The fuel tanks are in these "continuous bulges" running along both of the lower sides of the aircraft, a key means to identify this as a CH-47 rather than a C-46 Sea Knight. Refueling is done from both sides. Photo credit: SSgt Shane Cuomo, USAF. Presented by Defense Link.
Twin turbines are mounted on either side of the rear pylon under the rear rotors. The transmission housing is beneath the rotor blade, aft and forward. Presented by Dawn and Drew.
Starboard engine being maintained by Detachment 1, Co. G, Nevada Army National Guard. Presented by Defense Link.
This Army CH-47 is in the hangar at Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea. It's a good rear view. Note what look like two horizontal stabilizers above the engines. They are not such. They are fold down hatches that allow access inside the aft pylon and also allow maintenance specialists something to stand on. Presented by Camp Humphreys-Maintenance Platoon.
This is a nice view of the aft end. Note the size of those two engines. Note the ramp, which can fold all the way up or down to the pavement. Look at the mechanism of the aft rotor above the transmission housing. Seeing the crew chief sitting there, you get a sense for the Hook's size. This bird is loaded with meals-ready-to-eat (MRE) for hurricane victims in Texas in September 2005. Note the bubble window on the starboard side. There is one just like it on the port side. Presented by Defense Link.
Canadian 3rd PPCLI soldiers practice conducting internal loading techniques. The BV-206 tracked vehicle, at 7 tons (14,000 pounds), is easily carried by the CH-47D and is narrow enough to easily roll on and off its rear ramp. Presented by chinook-helicopter.com
Port engine. Crewmembers perform maintenance from Det. 1, G Co., 140th Aviation, Nevada Army National Guard. Photo credit: Joseph Bonet, civilian. Presented by Defense Link.
Capt. Luke Closson, Executive Officer to Brigadier General Donald A. Streater, commander of an A-10 recovery effort, scans the ground out below the "bubble window" on the port side aft for any A-10 debris that may have impacted the Negro Basin area. Capt Closson is in a CH-47 helicopter from Detachment 1, Company G, 140th Aviation, Nevada Army National Guard. Photo credit: SSgt David Richards, USA. Presented by Defense Link.
This is the underside of an Army CH-47 hovering while the Army crew chief positions the hook from the inside and Marines underneath hook up their sling load of food supplies. Photo credit: TSgt Joseph McLean. Presented by Defense Link.
Closeup of Sgt. Taotafa Kirifi, 82nd Airborne Division, hooking a sling load cable to the CH-47 hovering above her head. Is that confidence in the pilot, or what? Photo credit: Cpl. Jeremy Colvin, USA. Presented by Defense Link.
An infantryman connects a humvee to a CH-47D Chinook helicopter during an operation in the Argandab Valley of south central Afghanistan. The Soldier is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, and the helicopters are operated by crews of Company F, 131st Aviation Regiment. Presented by Free Republic.
Views from the Inside
A Lycoming T55-L712 installed as number one engine. There is an excellent presentation of the engine at Chinook-Helicopter.com
The pilot (left) and co-pilot (right), B Co., 159th Aviation Battalion, are manning their positions and flying a mission in Afghanistan. It is expected that the new F-model will digitize all those dials and have colored map graphic presentations on the main panel, all to reduce workload. It can get hectic up here. Photo credit: SSgt. Jeremy T. Lock, USAF. Presented by Defense Link.
An 82nd Airborne Division soldier mans a 7.62mm M60 machine gun mounted in the starboard open door of a CH-47 while conducting a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) mission from Bagram Airfield in Kabul. Photo credit: SFC Milton H. Robinson, USA. Presented by Defense Link.
A crew chief conducts an in-flight check at his maintenance panel in a CH-47D Chinook helicopter on a flight from Jalalabad in Afghanistan. The soldier is assigned to C Company "Flippers", 159th Aviation Regiment, home-based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Presented by Free Republic.
Main cabin. This can be very nice if transporting a few people. But if you want to fill her up with combat troops, you'll seat them along both sides of the fuselage and then a row down the middle, ala the next photo. Presented by chinook-helicopter.com
US Army and Iraqi soldiers are uploading from the rear after completing their mission on the ground. U.S. Army soldiers are from the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment and Iraqi Army soldiers are from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Iraqi Division. Note how the men are sitting both sides, and filling up the center aisle sitting on the floor. We have seen other photos where they really them packed in there far more densely than this. Photo credit: SSgt. Alfred Johnson, USA. Presented by Defense Link.
This shows how the interior can be configured for casualty evacuation. Specialist Fourth Class Jarred Moultrie, an Emergency Medical Technician with the 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, secures patients during an exercise into casualty evacuation tie-downs, aboard a 49th Division National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Photo credit: John Byerly. Presented by Defense Link.
Among other things, paratroopers can parachute out the rear. Here members of the 1st Special Forces Group and Thai airborne soldiers jump from a CH-47 during a combined exercise. Photo credit: TSgt Efrain Gonzales, USAF. Presented by Defense Link.
Pfc. Michael Braun, left, the Tail Gunner and Sgt. Andrew Lau, the Flight Engineer, from Bravo Company, 7th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) aboard a CH-47D Chinook Helicopter en route back from the Paktia province to Kandahar, August 19, 2002. The CH-47D had just completed inserting troops from the 82nd Airborne Division as part of Operation Mountain Sweep. Presented by Chinook Helicopter.
This perspective is from the cargo winch inside the belly of a hovering CH-47 as two soldiers below hook up a sling load to retrieve a damaged UH-60 Black Hawk Medevac bird. Presented by Defense Link.
A view of a High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) as it dangles under a CH-47 Chinook's sling as seen through the winch loading hatch. This is a 49th Division National Guard helicopter and 21st Combat Support Hospital HMMWV in a sling-load operation. Photo credit: John Byerly. Presented by Defense Link.
The H-21, a tandem rotor goes to fight in Vietnam
Our intentions are to show how the CH-47 did its jobs in Vietnam, Afghanistan and the humanitarian relief effort in Pakistan. In good conscience, we cannot talk talk about the CH-47's introduction to combat in Vietnam without first talking about its predecessor tandem rotor helicopter, the H-21 "Shawnee." Both the Army and Air Force operated the H-21 in Vietnam. We'll only address the Army.
The helicopter developed so quickly that the military services had a lot to learn about using it, especially in the areas of rapid logistics movements and air assault. The Army, and the other services, employed a variety of helicopters in Vietnam. All together, approximately 12,000 helicopters served there. The truth is that the helicopter industry lacked specific requirements direction from the Army, and that resulted in many designs.
From our perspective for this report, there were two fundamental designs: the single rotor with vertical tail rotor and the tandem rotor, which was the design used for the Chinook.
The H-21 tandem rotor, known as the "Flying Banana" and "Sagging Sausage" to many, played a central role in driving the combat and helicopter design requirements for airborne assault and logistics movements.
"Thunderbird Lounge: An aviator's story about one early transportation helicopter company," is a book by Major General Robert J. Brandt, USA (Ret.) about the 33rd Transportation Co. (Lt. Hel.) and the H-21 in Vietnam. Commenting on the book, David L. Eastman underscores the pioneering role played by the H-21 and its crews. He writes, "The H-21's are graphically described (in this book) in all their quirks and needs, as well as the skillful men who had to fly them. I find the earliest years of Vietnam helicopter warfare fascinating to read, as these men ... laid down the tracks for we later aviators to utilize in the mid-sixties on..."
The H-21 had only one engine, a radial piston engine, driving two rotors. We have seen capability numbers all over the map: speed ranging from 90 mph (we believe to be a cruising speed number) to as much as 132 (probably maximum speed); range from about 265 mi. to 400 mi., service ceiling from 8,000 ft. all the way up to 19,200 ft.
Ron Fiman (right) and unknown gunner at aft door of H-21 serial #135, "Miss Zoe Ann," sometime between 1963-64. Presented by Ron Fiman and 117th AHC.
We have seen reports that they were armed with 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm door guns. However, we have also seen official Army documents saying that early attempts to arm the H-21 at the door were ineffective. We have also seen articles saying the H-21s were unarmed. The photo above says that old #135 had a gun mounted and a gunner to fire it. Al Compton's unit started receiving B-models in November 1962 and these were "fitted with factory made rocket pods and quad 7.62 machine guns."
While the aircraft itself was 84 ft. 4 in. long, her cabin was actually fairly small. The interior cabin useful for cargo or people was that area between the two red lines on this photo. The entire aft end is occupied by engine, hydraulics etc. Assault troops normally entered through the aft port door, which was small, and slowed their movement on and off. It was equally hard to upload and download cargo and wounded troops. The forward starboard door, while the aircraft was on the ground at rest, was too high off the ground to mount troops or cargo quickly. While airborne, the flight cabin was level, increasing crew comfort.
Let's take a look at the H-21's main cabin interior. This shot, by Classic Rotors, is the best we've seen of the interior cabin.
H-21 interior. Presented by Classic Rotors.
Interior of a CH-21C. Presented by Wayne Buser's Soc Trang Army Airfield 1963.
We ran across a website by Laurent "Angus" Beauvais, who has built a 1/48 model of a H-21 flown by the French in Algeria in the late 1950s. The French relied heavily on the H-21 in that war. By the way, the French liked using guns with the aircraft. Beauvais is a very serious modeler, and has presented two interesting photographs of the interior as he built it for his model. He has paid close attention to detail. We commend his site to you.
You can see the red ribbed seats on the side of the fuselage, and provision for liters for wounded. The main cabin is not large.
The cockpit, by Beauvais.
The cockpit, by Wayne Buser's Soc Trang Army Airfield 1963.
The cockpit, by Burkhard Domke.
We also commend the website of Burkhard Domke to your attention. He has some terrific photography of the German H-21 at the Luftwaffenmuseum Berlin-Gatow. His photo of the front flight cabin correlates well with Mr. Beauvais' model. He has many more close-up shots of the aircraft, in effect, providing a great walk-around.
An Army document entitled, "Fundamentals of Army Aviation II," prepared by the US Army Transportation School and published in April 1961, provides a transportation light helicopter company Table of Equipment (TOE). It says, "An H-21 company can lift approximately 280 troops, 28.8 short tons of cargo, or 240 litter patients. In sustained effort, these capabilities are reduced by 25 per cent, or the lift capability can be adjusted by an aircraft availability factor which is dependent on the duration of the operation." This document says a company had two platoons, each platoon equipped with five light transport helicopters. One H-21 could carry from 8-10 troops. If a company used all ten aircraft in its two platoons, it could lift about 100 troops per trip, meaning that to lift 280 troops would require three round-trips by the entire company.
While Alaska is certainly a far different place than Vietnam, the 12th Aviation Co. flew the H-21 in Alaska. You will recall an earlier discussion explaining that the H-21 liked cold weather, explaining why the USAF bought it for air rescue operations in the Arctic regions. In any event, one officer assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, the last US Nike-Hercules missile battalion, who flew to work every day at Site Bay, Alaska aboard the H-21, has said this about how the pilots flew the Shawnee:
"The pilots always chose their path based on needing an open area in case of power failure and a need to make an emergency landing. One evening, during crew change, the wind picked up and the helicopter was having trouble making any headway against the wind coming up Cook Inlet. As chance would have it, the chopper lost power. We came down just short of an open area. Lots of toothpicks. The chopper ruined. All of our crew escaped unharmed, but the pilots were in the hospital for a few weeks. Everyone recovered fully. That is, all but the chopper."
Let's get on to the Shawnee's service in Vietnam.
USNS Core approaching a berth in Saigon Harbor, June 17, 1965, with Douglas EA-1F Skyraiders for the Vietnamese Air Force. Presented by NavSource Naval History.
Elements of the Army's 8th (Ft. Bragg) and 57th (Ft. Lewis) Transportation Companies (Light Helicopter) were the first to arrive. Eighty-two H-21s (we believe all C-models) and about 400 men arrived in Saigon on December 11, 1961 aboard the USNS Core, an escort carrier designed for moving cargo, known to many as a "baby flattop."
Shawnees over South Vietnam, 1962. Presented by wikipedia.
Their main job was to transport Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops to battle areas and back. These were the first US cargo-transport helicopters to be operated in Vietnam. It is our understanding that these H-21s were the first Army helicopters to enter the Vietnam War. By this we assume researchers are saying the first to enter officially as part of official Army aviation units. Whatever the case, the H-21s' arrivals ushered in "a new era of airmobility in the US Army." This was an important signal at the time that the US was going to commit combat power to Vietnam.
H-21s enroute to Vietnam on the USNS Croatan, 1962. Presented by the US Army Transportation Museum.
The 8th staged out of Qui Nhon, and the 57th served in southern III Corps, we believe stationed at Ton Son Nhut AB in Saigon.
H-21 helicopters at Ton Son Nhut AB, on the other side of the fence from the Army Security Agency (ASA) Cantonment area, August 1962. Note the crew member carrying a machine gun. Photo credit: Al Russo
These two units were followed in early 1962 by the 33rd, 81st and 93rd Transportation Companies along with the parent 45th Transportation Helicopter Battalion.
View of flight line of the 33rd in September 1962. Aircraft have had markings toned down. Note no gravel, revetments or buildings. Also, the thunderstorm in the right background. US Army photo, courtesy of Ralph Young, Author. Presented by 33rd Transportation Co.
The 33rd Transportation Co. (Light) set up shop at Bien Hoa, near Saigon, with two platoons originally.
The beginning: tents, red dirt, PSP flight line, Odd Pleiku, October 1962. Presented by The Beginning, Camp Holloway, 1962, 81st Transportation Co.
The 81st Transportation Co. set down at Old Pleiku in the strategic central highlands.
Aerial view of Soc Trang, on February 8, 1962. Fifteen H-21's are visible; H-21C, s/n 56-2056 , and one other in the air, three just touched down on the right side just south of the GCA antenna unit. Six more on the left side of the apron and three in front of the 80th Trans. Det. hanger. US Army Photograph from the collection of Ralph Young. Presented by Wayne Buser's Soc Trang Army Airfield 1963.
The 93rd Transportation Co. initially went to Soc Trang.
All together, this marked the beginning of getting serious about air assault. Air Assault means moving forces by helicopter to engage and destroy enemy forces or to seize and hold key terrain.
H-21s loading up ARVN forces for departure to the combat zone, 1963. Presented by the US Army Transportation Museum.
The 145th Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB) history describes the H-21's early days. The history is fascinating. We commend it to you. Just 12 days after the arrival of the 8th and 57th in December 1961, they were engaged in their first airmobile action in Vietnam in "Operation Chopper." The 145th's history describes it this way:
CH-21Cs on the ramp with ARVN troops on ramp at Soc Trang waiting to board. Presented by Wayne Buser's Soc Trang Army Airfield 1963.
"The first combat assault in Vietnam, on 23 December 1961, was conducted in pineapple fields about 10 miles east of Saigon and just south of the village of Duc Hoa with 30 aircraft from both the 8th and 57th Transportation Companies participating. At dawn on the morning of 23 December 1961, the pilots examined their aircraft with unusual thoroughness. Each item on the pre-flight check list was carefully scrutinized.
"Simultaneously the Vietnamese paratroopers quietly and orderly broke themselves into chalk loads and assembled around the helicopter that was to make history for them. Slowly the time passed. One hour, two, then three. The pilots laughed nervously as intelligence patiently tried to get a fix on the radio that we were after. Then the word came. Go!
"With the 57th Transportation Company leading into a small page in history, thirty helicopters formed in echelons right and left, gaining speed as they left the Saigon Airport behind. On time, and on target, the helicopters flared for a landing into an almost impossible zone. Perpendicular rows of pineapple fields deep in mud and water. If ever pilot training and technique paid dividends, this was the day. Small arms fire broke out immediately and several of the aircraft were under fire as they departed the area to return for additional troops and reinforcements. All the aircraft departed this area but one.
"As the pilots looked back they could see the cloud of black smoke and orange flames reaching for the sky and there was little doubt as to what had happened. Another, but undesirable first for the 57th Transportation Company. The first aircraft to be lost to insurgent activity while on an operational mission. Operation Chopper was a great success."
ARVN troops board CH-21C at Soc Trang. Presented by Wayne Buser's Soc Trang Army Airfield 1963.
They airlifted 1,000 ARVN paratroopers that day. The mission was a success, largely because of the surprise element, and presaged rapid growth in air mobility operations during the war. This was the first tactical operation involving the air movement of combat troops into battle.
Early on, the transportation companies required two pilots flying the H-21. They worried about a pilot getting hit by ground fire, and getting lost, especially in the heat of battle or when over sparsely populated terrain.
CH-21 pilot, believed to be Capt. Young, piloting serial #135. Presented by Ron Fiman and 17th AHC.
The men flying these missions did so with very little experience in tactical combat air movement operations, precious little tactical direction, and almost no supporting doctrine. In essence, they and those who followed wrote the scripts. This was no easy chore, because the men and their helicopters were spread far and wide throughout South Vietnam, conditions making it tough to coordinate and pass on lessons learned. For example, "how to" approach into and select touch-down points in hot landing zones (LZ), and "how to" avoid ground-fire while on their way. Thankfully, there were veterans of the Korean War in the mix and there were men who had the knack for seat-of-the-pants operations and developing new ways of doing things.
H-21 crew pose with aircraft number 034, Vietnam, 1963. Presented by the US Army Transportation Museum.
Stan Barkdoll was a H-21 crew chief with the 8th Transportation Company (later changed to 117th Assault Helicopter Co. (AHC) with introduction of Hueys) in 1963-64, and comments, "Damn H-21 midcase transmission is about the loudest noise you could possibly imagine." Robert Ryan, a civilian who hopped rides on occasion with the H-21, underlines the noise, saying flying as a passenger was "like living inside a bass-reflex stereo cabinet." He also worried that the aircraft vibration while in flight might disintegrate it! Al Compton writes, "The old A models were good but we were flying them into the ground. The hours were adding up on them faster than we could count. We encountered severe cracking and just plain not enough power."
Compton's unit started receiving B-models in November 1962. These had more power.
The learning curve would be tough. The H-21 was involved in rudimentary air mobility activity. They lacked most of the support around them that later units would enjoy. In addition, the ARVN knew nothing of air mobility. ARVN troops had to be trained how to board, how to sit while airborne, and how to disembark. Many were unenthusiastic aboard boarding.
The Marines issued a report called the COVAN Report which presents verbatim responses of a sample of US Marines who served in Vietnam as advisers, 1954-1973. The report is entitled, "Communion in Conflict." In Chapter 10, "Unsuccessful Incidents," one respondent described what it was like to air assault a battalion of Vietnamese Marines into combat when these Marines had never previously flown in a helicopter. He said this:
H-21 serial #021 in LZ, sometime between 1963-64. Photo credit: Granger. Presented by Ron Fiman and 17th AHC.
"In April of 1963, the 2nd Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Corps conducted a search and destroy operation west of Camau as part of a Vietnamese Army operation on a grand scale. The US Army provided 25 H-21 banana helicopters which we were to use for a vertical assault. HU1 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft provided close air support. The 2nd Battalion, with a strength of about 700 composed of three infantry companies, arrived at a dirt airstrip by truck. One minute after arriving we were informed that the Marines would make the assault by helicopter and the first wave was scheduled to take off in one hour. The Marines had never used helicopters prior to this time. The result was awful. The 25 helicopters were in a line a half a mile long. There was no effective communication between the battalion commander and his company commanders. The way it worked out was that as many people that could fit in a helicopter got aboard and they were transported to the LZ in the middle of Viet Cong country. The choppers returned for the next wave. Machine guns got on one helicopter and the ammunition on another. Officers and NCOs were not necessarily with their own troops. There was no plan for getting the people into a fighting posture at the LZ."
That said, at the time the old Banana was appreciated. Brigadier General Jack Quinn, USA (Ret.) would say:
"As a non-pilot...as always, I recall you guys as the real pros whom we all owe so much to. You certainly saved the skin of many of my grunts and I --and I will always thank, honor and love the guys of Army Aviation in Vietnam 1962-1975. Your H-21s out of 'old' Pleiku flew my 20th Vietnamese Ranger Battalion out of Kontum in '62-'63."
Blue Tail #085 CH-21 taxiing out at start of assault mission, sometime between 1963-64. Presented by Ron Fiman and 117th AHC.
While searching around for information about the H-21, we ran across a few names of these "pioneer army aviators." General Brandt said they include Tommy Cruz, Joe Henderson, Pop Edwards, "and the dynamic twins, the Good Olsen and the Bad Olsen;" we are certain he mentions many more in his book. Al Comption mentions Capt. "Drivin Ivan" Slavich and Capt. Joel R. Steine, both pilots, and Spc5 Donal Bunner, a crew chief, and Sgt William "Bill" Deal, a gunner (KIA). Don Joyce, whose memoir is part of a compilation entitled "Flight School," says that "Hank" Beau, while flying a CH-21C, was the first Army aviator wounded in Vietnam.
The transportation companies enjoyed considerable success with few losses during their first year. But in January 1963 came a rude awakening at Ap Bac, about 40 miles southwest of Saigon.
ARVN Troops with CH-21. Presented by Steven Stibbens, "Jan2-3, 1963, AP Bac, First Battle of the American War."
On January 2, ten H-21s were tasked to lift the ARVN 7th Infantry Battalion into an area north of Tan Thoi. Poor weather, mainly fog, slowed the operation down. CH-21s approaching the area flew within range of light arms fire and took multiple hits. They nonetheless got to their LZ and unloaded their troops.
Two downed H-21 helicopters at Ap Bac. Presented by wikipedia.
But one was too badly damaged to lift off. A second came in to rescue the crew, but took extensive damage and had to remain on the ground. Away from this area, a third CH-21 was forced to land. Finally, a fourth CH-21 was forced to abort a rescue after receiving heavy fire and was forced to land shortly thereafter because of battle damage. The ARVN force was defeated, its first major defeat by the Viet Cong insurgents, and four CH-21s were lost.
All four companies and the parent were renamed in 1963: 118th, 119th, 120th, and 121st Lift Helicopter (Light) companies, parented by the 145th Helicopter Battalion.
UH-1 Iroquois "Huey", photo courtesy of Global Security
Commencing in 1963 and continuing through May 1964, the H-21s were replaced by the UH-1 "Huey." The Huey rapidly became the helicopter of choice in Vietnam.
The CH-47 Chinook arrived in 1965, taking over tandem rotor, heavy lift duties.
The Chinook gets its initiation in the Vietnam War
This is aircraft 59-04986, a prototype YHC-1B, one of two surviving prototypes, sitting on the Boeing ramp in Pennsylvania. It is one of two surviving prototypes. Presented by chinook-helicopter.
The 11th Air Assault Division's (Test) mission was to design and test helicopter assault tactics. The 11th would employ a variety of helicopters in its work.
The 11th's lineage traced back to the 11th Airborne Division activated in 1943. The 11th was reactivated in 1963 at Ft. Benning as the 11th Air Assault Division (Test). Reactivating the 11th for this test and evaluation mission was an important move for the Army. Everyone and his brother in the Army at the time was trying to test and evaluate air mobile tactics and doctrine. All this effort had to be concentrated. The notion of conducting air mobile operations was as much a challenge for the helicopter crews as it was for the infantry that would be carried to and from battle by them. Helicopters would now have to fly in formation, swoop in on an LZ, often taking hostile fire, and the infantrymen aboard would have to get off in a rapid but orderly way and often close with the enemy almost as soon as they disembarked.
The 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB) was formed, led by Lt. Colonel John B. Stockton, made up of one company of UH-34s and two companies of UH-1Bs and Ds. This was the first such battalion in the Army. A Chinook battalion was also formed, the 228th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion (ASHB) led by Lt. Colonel Benjamin S. Silver, Jr. This was the first CH-47 battalion. The 132nd Assault Support Helicopter Co. (AHSC) was the first unit formed in the battalion, commanded by Major Spotts. And, the 10th Air Transport Brigade was formed under Colonel Delbert L. Bristol.
The UH-1s and UH-34s concentrated on formation flying over long distances through low weather. The Chinooks were brand new, maintenance and spare parts were a challenge, but they nonetheless concentrated on moving artillery and supplies. The brigade combined C-7 Caribou fixed wing aircraft with the new Chinooks to develop air lines of communication.
A pair of Sikorsky H–34 Chocktaw helicopters hovers above a landing zone during an air assault operation at Fort Benning during the testing of the 11th Air Assault Division. Presented by Army Logistican.
During its two years in this role, the division successfully developed the procedures necessary to move one-third of the division's infantry battalions and supporting units in one single helicopter lift. Once done, in 1965, the division was moved out of a test role and transformed into the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
The 11th Aviation Group was formed from the test division, and all its assets were transferred to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). The 11th Aviation Group controlled the 227th, 228th and 229th Aviation Battalions which formed the helicopter core of the 1st Cav. Interestingly, none of these battalions included the HU-21 Shawnee transportation companies that had done such pioneering work in air assault.
An Khe airfield under construction in 1965 "on the hurry" by the 8th Engineer Battalion. You can see the CH-47s lined up through the middle of the photo, with UH-1s in the upper right. One lesson learned right away is how important heavy lift was to the 8th Engineers to build runways quickly. A lot of heavy equipment had to be moved around quickly. Presented by US Army.
As an uplifting aside, legend surrounding Bullwhip is that he invented the Stetson cavalry hat for the 1st Cav, some time during 1964. At the time, Stockton was commander, 3-17 Cavalry at Ft. Benning. The idea was to increase espirit de corps in the new cavalry and bring back the look of the 1876 pattern campaign hat. This hat is now the trademark of people who served in the Cav.
Lt. Colonel John "Bullwhip" Stockton, First Team. Photo courtesy of Master Sergeant Mike Kelley. Presented by Cavhooah.com
The 1st Cav organized a 16,000 man division along the lines of the 11th Air Assault Division with a total of 434 helicopters. Beyond the advanced parties, who flew to Vietnam, the bulk of the troops and equipment arrived by troop ships. It took six ships, four aircraft carriers and seven cargo vessels to move them. The initial cadre of aircraft included CH-47 Chinooks, CH-54 Flying Cranes, Mohawk fixed wing OV-1s, UH-1 Iroquois Hueys and OH-13 observation craft. The men had to train aboard ship and become acquainted with jungle warfare and survival there as well.
The 1st Cav flew its first brigade-sized airmobile operation against the enemy on October 10, 1965 in Operation "Shiny Bayonet." Seeing the arriving force, the enemy chose to withdraw and fight another day. This was understandable. Three waves of B-52 bombers and persistent artillery bombarded the enemy, making way for establishment of landing zones (LZ). Then the 1st Cav and South Vietnamese Army and Marines swept in by helicopter. Eight helicopters were hit, but the 1st Cav chased after a 500-man enemy force. During the battle, Air Force forward air controllers (FAC) coordinated fighter close air support attacks with ground force commanders. This was indeed the beginning of a new style of warfare.
The battalion had three companies, each with 16 Hooks: Alpha Company Wild Cats, motto, "Sling the world;" Bravo Company Longhorns; Charlie Company, motto, "What more can we do?"
The Chinook played a major role in the Vietnam War, and the men who flew and maintained her are among our many American heroes. The 228th ASHB was not the only unit to fly the "Happy Hooker."
Broadly speaking, there were four categories of Army aviation units in Vietnam. The first was the Airmobile Division, like the 1st Cav. There were only two of these, the other being the 101st Airborne Division which converted to airmobile status while in Vietnam in 1968. Second, a regular infantry division would have an organic aviation unit, usually one aviation battalion with two companies and one Air Cavalry Troop. Third, there were non-division aviation companies, which eventually came under the control of aviation groups and aviation brigades. The 1st Aviation Brigade is one such example. Then fourth, we'll just say miscellaneous.
Our point is that you'll find many Chinook units that flew in Vietnam, and many gallant crews that were with them.
We have decided to tell their stories through some photography gleaned from the internet sites run by these proud Americans. Not only will you see what life was like with the Chinook in Vietnam, but you'll be introduced to some great web sites which presented the photography.
The photos below come from a variety of sources, and are intended to show you a little of what it was like to be the "Hook" in Vietnam. We have searched around for stories that seem relevant to the photo and attached it to the photo to add even more flavor.
The "Hook's Headquarters," the cockpit. Photo credit: Zeke Ressler. Presented by 147th ASHC Hillclimbers.
Having read hundreds of Chinook-in-Vietnam stories, it is mind-numbing to try to describe what went on on this cabin. While many pilots tell you their mission began as routine, many will admit that they seldom were routine. Bullets crashing through the aircraft, radios and intercomms buzzing with traffic, caution and warning lights blinking, pilots fighting to maintain control, struggling to get through the weather to get their supplies and troops to the right destinations, implementing the pages and pages of training manuals they had committed to memory, going in at all costs to rescue colleagues, searching for places to set their crippled aircraft down, life-and-death decisions about how to handle their slings, whether to try to make it back to home base, tense coordination with the guys four feet below trying to hook their loads, and making this huge truck dance around the skies like Peter Pan. Most of the pilots were under 25 years of age, many were not yet of drinking age, some were enlisted men pushed into the job because pilots were sorely needed, and all had their varying views of the war. The deal they made then is the same deal they make today: "You call, we haul. We fly anything, anytime, anywhere." Their callsigns ranged from Freight Train, to Box Car, Innkeeper, Muleskinner, Warrior, Wild Cat, we wish we could list them all.
An Khe observation post atop Hon Konh Mountain. This post overlooked the entire 1st Cav base camp at An Khe. Wild Cat 915 is in the air. Photo credit: Boeing Corp. Presented by 228th ASHB.
CH-47s flew a lot, and their crews start a lot of their stories something like Clifford J. Morley , C/228th ASHB, started his: "The day began routine enough, flying missions to landing zones (LZs) and hauling the standard stuff." They flew low and as fast as the Hook could go, almost at tree top level, in and out of fog and mist. They then broke out over a large clearing "when all hell broke loose." Right and left gunners firing, incoming bullets bouncing all over, flight controls under the pilot's seat hit, left gunner hit but kept firing, left fuel pod hit, rounds through the ramp, the wounded left gunner killed six enemy, the pilot kept her under control, returned safely and filed a "Army Combat Incident Report." Just another day at the office.
Troops testing the assault ladder in a hovering CH-47, somewhere in Vietnam. Presented by the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
So, imagine being a soldier aboard this Chinook. You are sitting aboard knowing that you're going to have to soon deplane, in this case climb down the assault ladder hoping you won't be shot on the way down, and, if you make it, go to work. Felipe Delgado Aguillon would eventually rise to the rank of First Sergeant in the Army, but first as a young man, 18 years old, he went to Vietnam. He was a "60 gunner" for the M60 machine gun, assigned to a weapons platoon. He went on "a lot of missions...on recons, on ambushes, on assaults...You name it, we did it. We did search and destroy, clean up. Once we had our helicopter and it was shot down and we had to go secure it and we ended up saving two pilots. It depends on what day your mission was for the day. You never knew what you were going to be doing the next day, but you were always ready to, to do any of the things they wanted you to do."
Then, he tells what he terms a "really funny story, well, it's a funny story now." It was his first mission, and he was being carried to battle by a Chinook. "My first mission, they put me on the back of this thing called the Chinook helicopter and of course, this was my first time I was going out and stuff, I was really, really nervous about what I was going to do and how...you know, you get all this training and stuff and you don't know how you're gonna, how you're gonna react to different things. If you're gonna be afraid, if you'll be able to do what you were trained to do, whatever. So, anyway, we got in this helicopter and were going to land on this area called Tin City. And as we landed, I just got so scared that I threw up all over myself. Well, needless to say, there was nowhere where you can go shower and clean up or whatever. And you see that no one wants to be around you and once we landed, we got out and we set up a perimeter." He then went to work, and did his job.
Standing on the aft ramp looking forward to the cockpit. Photo credit: Zeke Ressler. Presented by 147th ASHC Hillclimbers.
Whatever you can imagine being carried in this CH-47 cabin has probably been in there. Former US Army Captain Kirby Smith, part of the 2-8th Cav in Vietnam served under the late Major General George Casey's 1st Cav Division. Yes, this General Casey was the father of our current commander in Iraq, General George Casey. In any event, Smith commanded an infantry company that uncovered the largest medical cache inside Cambodia. It was so large, it took 32 Chinook loads to haul it back to the RVN. It turns out this cache was part of an incredible enemy cache of food, medical supplies, vehicle spares, ammunition and weapons, and communications equipment, all stored in what the North Vietnamese thought was a safe-haven near the RVN border. The 2-8 Cav nicknamed it "Picatinny East" after the major US arsenal. The 2-8 Cav reported the medical supplies carried out by the Chinooks this way. "The Picatinny East group of caches included the K30 hospital which was operated by the 70th Rear Service Group. This major medical facility had an operating room, laboratories, and kitchens. It consisted of 150 bunkers varying in size from 12 to 15 feet to 6 by 6 feet all with 2 1/2 foot overhead cover. The hospital was also a training center with classrooms and books. Among the medical supplies found were hypodermic needles, medical kits, drug bottles and test tubes. Ten kilometers away the battalion discovered a medical store house which contained 37,040 lbs of medical supplies including vitamin tablets, chloramimium B, sulfa antibiotics and chloraquinine as well as bandages, gauze and first aid kits." The Chinooks took it all out of there.
Charlie Co., 1-50 Infantry (Mech), 1sr Cav Div (Airmobile) unload supplies from a CH-47 at a a LZ somewhere in Vietnam. Presented by wikipedia.
Bob Segar has written about the 25th Infantry Division constructing patrol bases "out in the middle of nowhere, generally close to an enemy concentration." Generally, they'd be located on a hill so the defenders could look down on the enemy. UH-1s from the 25th Aviation Battalion's "Little Bears" would first bring in an infantry company from the 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds" supported by UH-1 gunships from the 25th Aviation Battalion's "Diamondheads" flying above, waiting to pounce on any threatening enemy force. Then in came CH-47s from the 242nd ASHC "Muleskinners" delivering the heavy duty stuff like heavy equipment and combat engineers to go with it. The "Chinooks would fly in with huge cargo nets dangling beneath them carrying supplies to construct the fire support base. Another Chinook arrived carrying a bulldozer. The combat engineers arrived and proceeded to carve out the support base. It wasn't necessary to bulldoze any fields of fire as there were no trees around, so the bulldozer scraped a large circle on the ground. Good guys on the inside and the enemy on the outside." Once that was done, more Chinooks came in carrying howitzers on their slings, a Chinook would land and artillerymen would jump off and scramble over to help place the howitzers into their firing positions. Throughout the day more Chinooks would come in and out carrying ammunition, artillery shells, barbed wire, claymore mines and all that. Within a few days, Patrol Base Diamond was fully operational, and the forces there awaited enemy attack, which is what they wanted, a frontal assault where the full weight of the division's firepower could be unleashed against them.
As a related comment, retired CWO3 Leland Komich, who flew Chinooks for the 1st Cav in 1968, says: “We could bring in 105mm howitzers. They could complete a fire mission. And we could pull them out before the enemy could shoot back.”
CH-47 Chinook brings in sling load of artillery ammunition during Operation Bolling. Presented by US Army.
Mike Maloy, with C Co., 159 ASHB, 101st Airborne Division, was a CH-47 pilot on February 10, 1969, aircraft commander was Capt. Kelly Williams. They had been flying combat resupply missions all day long into LZ Erskine at the north end of the Ashau Valley in I Corps, "Marine country." They thought their day was about close out, they stopped at Dong Ha for fuel, and then intended to go to Phu Bai for the night. But the Marines at Erskine called for one more load of 105 mm howitzer shells and had four Marines who needed to get to Erskine as well. So they picked up the four Marines and 10,000 lbs of 105 mm shells in a sling load. On final approach, the LZ started taking mortars so they had to go around. On the second approach, Maloy set the load down on the ground to be unhooked, but the Marines needed it in a different location. So Williams took the controls to move the load. He lifted upward and made a tight 360 degree pattern circle to come back to the LZ. Now on their third approach they had a "beep failure on No. 1," which means that the normal engine trim system failed, which means that system could not control the rotor rpms (revolutions per minute). This in turn meant he was going to lose airspeed. So Williams decided to take the aircraft down the side of a mountain to try to gain airspeed and save the load. To make a long story short, they kept losing rpms, the system designed to punch off the load did not work, and the aircraft was in such turbulence from low rotor rpms that the flight engineer could not get to the manual hook release handle. They crashed in the trees upside down, about 300 yards down the mountain from the LZ. A partner CH-47 tried to get in for a rescue but the jungle was too dense. Remember now, the downed Chinook still has 10,000 lbs of 105 mm ammo and is filled with fuel. Three of the four Marine passengers were killed, but everyone else, though injured, could still work. A squad of Marines sped down the hill, set up security, and kept the bad guys away. A Marine CH-46 came in, rescued everyone and recovered the KIAs. Not sure what happened to the ammo, but we suspect the Marines climbed down and retrieved it all.
The view straight down from the cargo winch of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The hedge rows visible on the ground provide good concealment for trenches and bunkers. Photo credit: Ray Mendez, 3/B/1-6 Inf 1970-71. Presented by 1-6 Infantry, USA
A CH-47 drops off a load at an LZ in 1970. The rotor wash produced tremendous winds on the LZ/PZ that could knock a man down if he stood upright without bracing himself. A small LZ/PZ sometimes was left in shambles as boxes, tents, etc. were blown away when the aircraft departed. Photo credit: Ray Tyndall, 3/B/1-6 Infantry, 1970-71. Presented by 1-6 Infantry, USA
Firebase Ripcord was one of a string of firebases along the eastern perimeter of the A Shau Valley. It was used as a jumping off point for operations in the valley. Former Army First Sergeant John Schuelke recalls in a fairly colorful way being at Firebase Ripcord when a Chinook came in. "Just before dusk a Chinook came in. It was really blowing a lot of stuff around. You may recall we called them 'Shithooks' for that reason. I was down behind the steps of a shelter they built for us in case we were mortared. Apparently static electricity detonated a round and one of the Arty (artillery) people working with the sling apparatus was wounded. Although there was a lot of blood the wound was minor. At about the same time Paul Guimond, who was briefly attached to one of the units pulling security around Ripcord, almost got wiped out by one of those 55 gallon drum halves we used for crappers. It went flying down the hill in flames and barely missed him. Paul came up at that point and said, 'I sure would hate to see that telegram. Telling my folks I got hit by half a drum of shit.'"
Pinnacle aft-gear landing at LZ Tiger while delivering cargo. Submitted by Matt Dossey. Presented by Chinook Crews.
This photo is of a tactic that is not so much a landing as it is to set down the aft ramp to either take on passengers or supplies or drop them off on a hill. This is done when the LZ is particularly small or the hostile fire is so bad it's the only place the crew could find to get its job done. It's known as a pinnacle landing.
John R. Fox, a CH-47 pilot with the A Co., 228th ASHC, 1st Cav, tells a most harrowing story about operations in the A Shau Valley. Andy Dular was his co-pilot. The date was April 24, 1968. They received a tactical emergency mission to resupply a 105 howitzer firebase southeast of LZ Tiger. The Americans there were in danger of being overrun. They took an external load of 105 mm ammo and internally they loaded some classified ammo and troops. They departed Camp Evans for the A Shau and were to rendezvous with two Huey gunships that would escort them through a hole in heavy clouds to the valley.
They were close to the Laos border, so they executed a rapid spiral descent into the valley. During their approach to the hilltop firebase, they saw five UH-1s destroyed around the firebase and within 50 ft of touchdown they received hostile fire from directly below. The radio compartment was seriously damaged and the number one hydraulic system was hit, causing a loss of pressure. The left waist gunner was shot and killed.
Fox and Dular decided they could not land, so they dropped their sling load. They then "moved forward to the edge of the pad touching down our aft wheels, then lowering the rear ramp to unload ammo and the troops." They did this successfully, and began their ascent with a complete loss of their #1 hydraulic system. They were able to get high enough to skim clear of the mountains and out. They made it back. One other wounded crewman died.
Among all her other jobs, the Hook became a leader in recovering downed aircraft and getting them back to the pen to be repaired and flown again. Estimates are the Hook saved about $3 billion in aircraft. In this photo, a Hook is carrying a recovered UH-1 Huey. Presented by Pegasus Operations
The American taxpayer would be flabbergasted and filled with awe to learn what our Army aircrews did to save aircraft shot down or forced to land in enemy territory. As a general rule, recoveries of downed aircraft were made during daylight hours. On February 26, 1966, however, the 147th Transportation Co., later to become B Co., 214th Aviation Regiment "Hillclimbers," made the unit's first night recovery of a downed UH-1 Huey. The mission was tagged as urgent. If the 147th could not get the Huey, the order was to destroy it. First Lieutenant Robert Kibler and CWO2 Robert Sword understood that hovering above the Huey at night in total darkness would make hookup very hard, if not impossible. A rigging team from the 56tth Maintenance Co. was lifted in to prepare the Huey for hookup and ready a searchlight. At 2000 hours, Kibler and Sword took their Hook in, the ground team turned on the searchlight, exposing everyone to hostile fire, and the CH-47 maneuvered over the Huey. But the Hook's skipper decided there was not enough light. Another helicopter orbiting the area landed and directed his lights at the site. That was good enough. Specialist 5 James Stutteville directed the Hook in and the riggers latched them up. Everyone including the CH-47 turned off their lights, another risky trick with so many aircraft flying in the area, but necessary to avoid detection of their direction of flight, and they sped away escorted by two UH-1B gunships. Mission completed.
Of course, the Hook itself sometimes needed to be recovered. A CH-54 Flying Crane is carrying Chinook 069, known as "War Wagon," damaged while in routine maintenance at LZ Sharron by two 122 mm rockets. Two maintenance men working inside were hurt, but survived. Note how a drogue chute is strung up to the aft end of the Hook to help stabilize her for her "flight" to Danang for repair. Also note the rotors have been removed. Photo credit: Bill McClain. Presented by 228th ASHB.
John LeCates tells an astounding story about how far a Chinook maintenance man will go to avoid having his bird carried home by a CH-54 "Skycrane." In April 1969, Boxcar 458 was on a normal resupply mission northwest of Chu Lai went hit by hostile fire and forced down. A round had apparently gone through the transmission. The crew survived. A report came into 178th ASHC that the aircraft was down and could not be recovered by a Skycrane until the next day. So, Lt. William R. Thibeault and Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Alfred J. Romaszowski, both maintenance men, decided to go to the disabled aircraft. Once on site, they decided the aircraft was out in the open and was vulnerable to hostile fire seeking to destroy it through the night, even though there were a few security troops there to protect it. Romaszowski knew the aircraft had a history of front transmission chip detector false alarm problems, and decided to take a chance that the interior of the transmission was not badly damaged. He carved a wooden plug for the hole in the transmission, filled it with oil, persuaded two specialists to fly as crew, and together with the lieutenant decided to try to fly her out. They started the engines, the two specialists held the wooden plug in place, and the the lieutenant and the chief flew Box 458 home. We have no idea whether they were flight qualified. The two specialists suffered some burns from holding the plug but Boxcar 458 was home to fly another day. These guys were simply not going to let that Huey lie at risk and they were going to beat the Skycrane to the job.
Hook #143 in her sandbag revetment at LZ Sharron. A frontal view.
This is a side view of Hook #093 in the same kind of sandbag revetment. Presented by 228th ASHB.
We do not know whether the aircraft has its rotors turning to be parked in this kind of stable, or whether it is pushed in by tractor. But we have found some interesting commentary by "Greybeard" about the grace and fragility of these enormous rotors:
"Different helicopters come with different types of Rotor Systems: Rigid, Semi-Rigid, Fully Articulated, and hybrids of the above. As you might expect, each of these systems has advantages and disadvantages.
"The U.S. Army's big Chinook has a fully articulated rotor system. This rotor can be compared to the connection of your arm to your shoulder.......the individual rotors can move fore and aft, up and down, all at the same time, similar to your arms moving independently.
"The fully articulated system is a complicated one, with many moving parts, but when properly balanced and tracked, it provides a 'Cadillac on the boulevard' ride.
"One of the disadvantages of this system is that if you shock it with a hard bump on landing or takeoff, the rotor can get dramatically out of balance, and that unbalanced condition can amplify and worsen catastrophically."
He then sends you to a video of a Hook experiencing what the professionals call, "Ground Resonance," which shows what happens to the aircraft when the rotors are out of balance. We commend it to you.
This is a photo of a famous ACH-47 gunship working out on enemy targets in the Bong Song area. This gunship was from the 53rd Aviation Field Evaluation Detachment (Provisional), known as "Guns-a-Go-Go," later redesignated 1st Aviation Detachment (Provisional). Only four CH-47 were outfitted with heavy-duty guns. They flew in Vietnam as a six month test. Each had its own name: Cost of Living, Stump Jumper, Birth Control, and Easy Money. Easy Money was the only Hook to make it out of Vietnam alive. There is terrific photography of these birds and their crews at gunsagogo.org. Above photo from B. Hester, sent by W. Sullivan. Presented by flying-circus.org
During the Battle of Hue, the city known as the "Citadel," on February 22, 1968, the weather had prohibited fixed wing support so helicopter gunships were used. Two ACH-47s, Go-Go 4 and 9, joined with other Huey gunships to provide needed support to the troops on the ground.
Aircraft 64-13154, "Birth Control," in the RVN, callsign Go-Go-4. Presented by Chinook Helicopter.
Go-Go-4, better known as "Birth Control," was hit. Multiple system failures occurred as a result. He broke off and looked for a place to land. His wingman, Go-Go-9, "Easy Money," provided suppressive fire as Go-Go-4 landed. Unfortunately, the landing site was visible to the enemy and he drew intense fire. Go-Go-9 decided to land near to his comrade for a rescue. Seven crew members from Go-Go-4 jumped aboard Go-Go-9 while the gunners fired their 40 mm grenade launcher and 50 mm machine guns at the enemy. Go-Go-9 lifted off. The pilots intended to stick around the area and secure the area around the downed Hook with their suppressive fire. But Go-Go-4 took a direct hit and exploded, completely destroyed. Go-Go-9 and the Go-Go-4 crew returned to base, several wounded in the battle, but all souls alive. Incidentally, there has been some controversy surrounding the use of these four CH-47s as gunships. We have seen one former Guns-A-Go-Go crewman say with certain pride that they destroyed every target assigned, regardless of their experiencing other problems.
At LZ Roy, on the Gulf of Tonkin, a CH-47 Chinook in 1969 shares the real estate with a GMD-1 radar that is protected with sand bags. Just remember the pilots had a postage stamp there on which to land. Presented by Army Meteorologists and Vietnam, by Paul A. Roales and others.
Picture of 073, 147th AHSC "Hillclimbers" working somewhere in Vietnam pre-September of 1967 (No engine FOD screens). It looks like he's slinging in fuel tanks. Photo credit: George Miller. Presented by 147th Hill Climbers.
Here you see an interesting photo of a CH-47 retrieving UH-1 Huey 65-1717 from a rice paddy. Sgt. Keener was the "hookup man", he has just hooked her, and is high-tailing it out of the rotor wash. The Huey crew, we believe, "battened down the hatches" for their Huey prior to retrieval, which included tying down the rotor to the skids such that the rotor ran the length of the Huey, all to avoid the rotor from turning while being retrieved. Photo credit: B. Medsker. Presented by fly-circus.org.
Bob Shine was a Huey driver in Vietnam flying a "Vulture" Command and Control (C&C) ship with one more Vulture UH-1 "Slick" and two "Copperhead" UH-1 gunships, all from the 162nd Assault Helicopter Co. Shine's Huey had been shot down the previous day, all souls rescued and key radio gear recovered, but the enemy proceeded to destroy the aircraft. Shine and the others went back the next day to hunt down these guys and let them know they ought not to do that.
During this mission, a Vulture gunship was hit by hostile fire, but managed to land in a clearing. Shine went in and rescued the crew and got the radios and guns. The downed Huey looked to be in pretty good shape, with only a few holes in it, so Shine took control of the situation and called for help to pull this aircraft out of there, get her fixed and back up in the air.
Five slick Hueys with infantry aboard came in to secure the aircraft. They were accompanied by Cobra gunships and one of Shine's partner gunships was still on station. Then a Chinook came in. Shine would comment, "and since these aircraft (CH-47s) are very expensive, more gunships came in to help keep things calm." His point was that he was flying the C&C ship, and there were many aircraft in the area working to save this downed Huey. Shine would go on to say he was just a CWO2, only 20 years old, not old enough to drink back home, and yet, here he found he was in charge of 100 men and 14 aircraft lifting out one UH-1. He did it. They did it.
A word about the men who came in to secure a downed helicopter in Vietnam. Specialist 5 Harold "Light Bulb" Bryant, a combat engineer, tells that in the latter part of 1966, he was called on to go in to Cambodia to help retrieve a downed helicopter. He says that they figured the helo was hit in Vietnam, but ended up crash landing inside Cambodia, since our forces were not allowed in Cambodia at the time. In any event, the job of his squad of engineers was to cut around the shaft of the downed aircraft so the Chinook could come in, hook up, and get out. His squad didn't get to the scene until early evening, the Chinook couldn't come in, so they had to stay there all night. Light Bulb says the downed aircraft "had one door gunner and two pilots, and they were all dead." He says when darkness fell, they could see a fire about a half mile away and determined it to be enemy. In the dark of a jungle, you hear a lot of things, and all night they were sure they heard enemy movement toward their position. He says, "We were so quiet that none of us moved all night. Matter of fact, one of the guy's hair turned stone gray. Because of the fear. He was just 19. He was a blond-headed kid when the sun went down, and when the sunlight came up, his hair was white. We didn't find out they were monkeys until that morning."
A CH-47 from the 271st ASHC "Innkeepers" ran out of gas and the pilot "set her down" with a bit of a crunch in a rice paddy. Another CH-47 came in to retrieve her. This is a nice shot because you see one rigger forward of the downed CH-47 hooking a sling to the hovering CH-47, while a second rigger stands in front of the aft engine waiting to attach a second sling line. Remember the prop wash, hope the pilot has his baby under full control, and hope the enemy doesn't attack. Presented by Gemini65.
George Arzent talks about the teams of men who did most of the work preparing a downed aircraft for recovery. The recovery guys were with the 520th Transportation Battalion, 34th General Support Group, and were known as the "Pipesmoke" recovery teams. They took care of most extractions in Military Region 3 in southern RVN. He explains that the 34th would provide the Chinook to do the lifting and the 520th would provide the Pipesmoke riggers and maintainers. They handled routine maintenance evacuations where an aircraft had to be moved from one base to another base to be repaired. For these, usually both ends of the flight were secure. A field extraction, though, retrieved an aircraft forced down beyond the safety of base camp perimeters. For this extraction, immediate action is almost always essential so the enemy does not have a chance to destroy the aircraft or obtain any encryption devices and radios. Arzent talks with considerable pride about how a Pipesmoke team recovered a fully equipped Chinook by using another Chinook and airlifted it from Phu Loi to Saigon. He says this was the "first time a Chinook had been recovered in Vietnam without having been stripped of all detachable components ... demonstrating that the valuable helicopter could be moved out of danger much faster than was ever thought possible." Arzent adds, "The 'Pipesmoke' crew members are briefed on the mission and prepare the necessary rigging gear and once on the scene, the recovery is made swiftly and carefully. Each man has a specific job, and in coordination with other members of the team, performs with long-practiced skill."
Hillclimber #68-15842, on the fantail of Resupply Ship USS Jennings County LST 846. Ship's Motto was, "We can handle it." Photo by Len Swiatly. Presented by 147th Hill Climbers.
In the top photo, a CH-47 from the 228th Aviation Battalion is placing a "telephone pole" into a hole dug for it going up the side of Hong Cong Mountain. The second photo shows another CH-47 from the same unit "stringing the wire" on the poles, with a "gentle touch on the cyclic and delicate thrust lever control, combined with adept crew chiefs and flight engineers ... up the mountain they went." Presented by the 362nd Aviation Co.
Some enterprising airmen and their colleagues decided to get into the hootch moving business in the Bong Song area You just gotta love GIs. Photo credit: B. Medsker. Presented by flying-circus.org
Darrell Bain tells a whopper that might have some relevance to this photo. In 1966, he was an Army staff sergeant teaching small arms in Germany. While there, and quite by accident, he took a flight school aptitude test, passed, applied for flight school, and made it through. A CWO in Vietnam, if we read him right, he flew a Huey gunship and claims he was so bad they promoted him to 2nd Lt. He ten came back to Vietnam as a commissioned officer and they transitioned him to the Chinook. He tells the rest this way. "Now I've got something really big I can't fly and I'm going to have to do it for the 101st Airborne in Phu Bai. I discover I don't like Chinooks. They're big, they leak, they smell bad and they don't have rocket pods and they want you to fly until your buns ache. Their only socially redeeming quality is now you can steal big things like jeeps, 20,000 gallon water storage tanks, kitchen equipment and such. So, in the grand scheme of things, being a hook pilot wasn't all that bad after all."
Fast forward to Afghanistan, at war, and Pakistan, a humanitarian role
With the American flag waving in the wind, an U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook crew steps in from the wind and heat at a remote landing zone in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, USAF. Presented by Defend America
Few western helicopters today can fit the term, "heavy lift." The CH-47 does. They can be tough to maintain, but their lift capability is a "must have." Since the Vietnam-Laos Wars, the CH-47 in use by the Army has been seen everywhere. The A, B and C models were used extensively during the Vietnam-Laos Wars.
The heat of Vietnam limited the A's performance. The B model introduced new, more powerful engines, a "beefed up" airframe, better rotor blades to increase lift, and a blunted aft pylon, spoilers on the forward pylon, and strakes on the under side to improve stability. The C model increased sling load to 15,000 lbs, increased gross weight to 46,000 lbs, four additional auxiliary fuel tanks, and more structural improvements. Production of the C-model continued until 1980.
CH-47D from A Co. "Flipper," 159th Aviation Regiment, deployed to Honduras. Presented by Chinook Helicopter.
Since that time the Army has invested a great deal in the D-model and has had it adapted for special operations as MH-47Ds and Es. The D-model received upgraded power plants, improved transmission systems, and fiberglass rotor blades. New engines were also installed. The cockpit was redesigned to reduce workload, better electrical, hydraulic and flight control systems installed along with better avionics.
Since the As, B,s and Cs reached the end of their useful life in 2002, the Army has procured an upgrade package designated as the CH-47F with a parallel upgrade for the special operations models designated the MH-47G. The cockpits have been digitized, the airframes modified, and the engines enhanced. The expectation is that the CH-47 capability will be with us for at least another 20 years.
Since the Vietnam-Laos Wars, the US Bay of Pigs invasion, the intervention in Grenada, the invasion of Panama, the liberation of Kuwait, the intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq have all occurred.
We will highlight what the "Hook" has been up to in the current military operation in Afghanistan. We also have appended this with some photos from the US humanitarian aid effort to the victims of the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan. The Hook crews did this and fought war in Afghanistan.
Once again, we will tell the story through photography, and add stories relevant to the photo where we can. The aircraft can now carry 54 troops or at least 25,000 lbs in freight, either inside or slung underneath on up to three hooks. They have satellite navigation and instrument landing systems, and can be fitted with two, M-134 six-barreled guns and an M-60 machine gun.
It is our impression that the CH-47's role on Afghanistan has been dictated by terrain. Sandy Riebling wrote this for The Huntsville Times:
"Army CH-47 helicopters are being used deep in the mountains of Afghanistan, hauling troops, equipment and supplies in altitudes no other military aircraft can endure with heavy loads."
The biggest problem for a helicopter flying at such altitudes is they lose power. Many helicopters cannot get up there. Even CH-47 pilots have to be very careful. They cannot think in terms of the amount of power they need at sea level. Their bird's performance will be much less at high altitude, and, for that matter, in hot environments. All that said, our information is that a CH-47 can carry a platoon to terrain at elevations of 10,000 ft. No doubt, our fliers have taken them higher.
A CH-47D Chinook helicopter, escorted by an AH-64 Apache, flies through a snow covered mountain range in Afghanistan, January 7, 2004. Presented by Free Republic.
This has created a separate problem for the Hooks. The AH-64 Apache Longbow gunships are supposed to escort the CH-47s in and out of their target area to provide suppressive fire as required. But the Apaches have trouble operating at 8,000 - 10,000 ft. The challenge is made more difficult because usual tactics call for the Apaches to fly higher than the Chinooks. In the above photo, for example, that Apache pilot would have a far better view of any threats the Chinook if he were above him instead of off to the wing.
Altitude is one challenge. Blinding, howling winds and sand are others.
The pilots of a CH-47 Chinook from Bravo 159th Aviation, Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga., fly a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The mission is to extract a U.S. Army Special Forces team from Cha-e-ab, Afghanistan, and input them into an undisclosed location. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock, USAF. Presented by Defend America
These two pilots are heading out to extract forces, and insert them elsewhere. CWO3 Jeff Simon and CWO2 John Quinlan talk a bit about inserting them, in this case in support of Operation Anaconda, an operation conducted in March 2002. The mission was to destroy Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shah-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains southeast of Zormat. The pilots get briefed about the ground operation into which they are lifting forces, but they don't get and they don't need the details. Simon tells us, "For us, the objective was to get the infantry on the ground where they wanted to be at, at a particular time. And then we usually get a little bit of, of background of exactly what they're going to do on the ground, so we can help them do their mission. But, for us, the objective is always get them on, on target, plus or minus 50 meters, plus or minus 30 seconds." Quinlan adds, "I was most worried about the terrain in the landing area. We had imagery of the landing areas. Those pictures didn't do us a lot of good. The terrain analysis on the maps, we knew we were going to be in jagged areas. So basically, getting that helicopter in there safely and landing and getting those guys up, that's what everyone was focused on."
Waiting to board. Look at the gear! Photo courtesy 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Presented by Boeing.
U.S. troops from the 82nd Airborne Division board a CH-47D Chinook helicopter to head out on Operation Mountain Sweep. The CH-47D was flying them from Kandahar to the Paktia Province of Afghanistan. Presented by Chinook Heliclopter.
Andrew Exum, a former Ranger captain and veteran of Anaconda, tells what it's like for a fully loaded infantryman to wait for his CH-47 to take him to battle. We commend his complete writing to your attention. Situated with his men at Bagram AB, each man had to help the other sit down on the tarmac while their CH-47 refueled. He reckons he had 90 lbs of stuff on his back, and remembers worrying how he was going to carry "all this crap on my body" at 10,000 ft. above sea level. He reports, "We sat silently, watching the planes and attack helicopters take off a few hundred meters away. We helped one another down off our feet in order to sit on the tarmac while waiting for our CH-47 helicopters to fuel. Then we sat silently, watching the planes and attack helicopters take off a few hundred meters away. Finally, it was our turn to load the helicopters, and each man struggled to his feet under the weight of his equipment. One of my friends from another platoon walked over and shook my hand before he went to board his own helicopter. He didn't say anything, just squeezed my gloved hand in his and forced a tight-lipped smile. Another friend in his group threw me a cocky wink, too far away already to walk over."
In an article entitled, "Choppers in coils: operation Anaconda was a 'back to basics' campaign for US combat helicopters," Dodge Billinsgly talks about the boarding process on the way to battle. On March 2, 2002, Chinooks from the 159th Aviation Brigade and 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment started firing up their engines. Troops from the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions waited to be told to board. The rear gunner stood outside watching the rotors start their spin, and then motioned the troops forward. Billingsly writes, "Over the noise of the aircraft, a platoon sergeant yelled, 'Let's go, Let's go get in there. Get that shit off your back -- sit on it, make some room, let's go!' The men filed onto the birds. In total, eight Chinooks, in two serials of four, prepared to leave for the Shah-e-Kot Valley."
A Scout Team from 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment with Afghan police exit a CH-47 Chinook close to Garzak, Afghanistan. Photo credit: Sergeant Jennifer Emmons, 17th PAD. Presented by Black Five.
Here's a nice close-up of the kind of load a trooper might have. Next time you hear those overpaid candies whining about playing football at mile-high stadium in Denver, tell 'em about our fighting boys in Afghanistan! We might add that the weather here looks pretty good. You can imagine what it must be like for the Hook pilots to get through this kind of terrain and set these guys down when the weather is not so hot. And then what it's like for the troops once they disembark.
By the way, for the Anaconda operation, not only did the CH-47s fly above high altitude terrain, they came in at night, zero-zero illumination, and had to be refueled in mid-air before launching their assaults. Talk about being in the hands of the Lord!
CH-47 flight cabin area on flight from Kabul to Jalalabad near the Pakistan border. Note side gunners on each side.
While they'll pack them in tight when bringing aboard soldiers and/or cargo, these side gunners will tell you to stay clear as they need a full range of motion.
Operation Mountain Viper put U.S. Army soldiers of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division in Deh Chopan, in Afghanistan's Zabul province, to search for Taliban and weapon caches that could be used against U.S. and allied forces. Soldiers of 1st Platoon observe the view from a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Kyle Davis, USA. Presented by Defend America.
On their way to fight in Operation Anaconda in March 2002, Chinook pilot CWO3 Scott Breslin says, "[We were] actually enjoying some of the scenery. It sounds crazy, but it's really pretty country that we're flying over here. Until you get to that last couple of minutes, it's kind of an enjoyable flight." Fellow pilot CWO2 Ken Gunter says, "Probably 10 minutes out the entire helicopter was just silent, and everybody was just doing their jobs and getting ready for those last few minutes inbound."
Harkening back to Dodge Billinsgly's article, he comments that Colonel Frank Wiercinski, callsign RAK 6, "anxiously waited for the first CH-47s to reach their designated LZs." Five AH-64 Apache gunships led the armada into the valley, searching for enemy to destroy, searching to protect the Hooks and their precious cargo on their way in. One Apache broadcast the codeword "Ice," meaning the LZs looked clear and good to go. The Chinooks came in through the clouds and the Apaches flew overhead to watch their infantries exit the CH-47s below.
Returning to Andrew Exum, the former Ranger captain and veteran of Anaconda cited previously, he commented that they packed in tight, more than 30 fully loaded troops inside, many on the floor. He was the last to board, and almost fell over when the Hook took off. Many of the men had not eaten, so they searched around for the energy or granola bars they had tucked away. "Most looked around nervously, their helmets swiveling from left to right. The curved night vision mounts strapped to their foreheads made them look like rhinos from the neck up." After about an hour in the air, one soldier vomited into a ziploc bag he had the wherewithal to pull out as he was getting sick. "I saw the raw fear behind their smiles. Fear was behind the yelling too, a welcome release. I was scared too."
Sound the klaxon. The Yanks are comin.' Photo courtesy 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Presented by Boeing.
Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division deploy from a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter during Operation Mine Sweep in Afghanistan. Presented by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Exum goes on to say, "My radioman, Flash, reached back and tapped me on the shoulder. 'Sir, we're close. I struggled to reach my feet and leaned over 'Junk,' one of my machine gunners, to get a view out of one of the Chinook's tiny side windows. I saw small dark figures on the ridge to the helicopter's left and knew these were our allies, Canadian soldiers who had landed before us and were securing the landing zone. I then helped 'Flash' to his feet and worked hard to remain upright as I put my rucksack on and then secured Flash's radio to his back. As the Chinook settled down, the dust flew up, obscuring everything and blinding us all. We felt a sharp jolt, and Flash and I grabbed onto each other again to keep from falling over. The back ramp filled with dust, and the machine gunner on the ramp moved to the side. We couldn't see a thing, but it was time. I pushed the men ahead of me, pulling Flash with my left hand, and before I knew it, I was out of the helicopter, under its spinning blades. I had just set foot into the Shah-e-Kot Valley."
Staff Sergeant Thomas Finch, 10th Mountain Division, says he exited his Chinook on March 2, 2002, setting foot in the Shahikot Valley, and "It wasn't two minutes after we stepped out that we started taking heavy fire. We had 32 wounded in the first two hours."
U.S. Marines from "America's Battalion," 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, "The 3-3," leap from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovering just above the snowy hills of Korangal, Afghanistan, during Operation Spurs, January 29, 2005. They flew in fast and low, jumped off just outside one of their main target's house, cordoned off the area right away, and began their searches for mid-level Taliban and terrorists. Photo credit: Cpl. Rich Mattingly, USMC. Presented by Defend America.
By the looks of this photo, the LZ for this Chinook is pretty good. Note this is a pinnacle landing; aft down to the ground, nose up in the air. A CH-47 trying a similar maneuver in close quarters crashed in May 2006 killing 10 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. The LZ was too small, the pilots could only touch down with their rear two wheels, having to hover with the front wheels off the side of a mountain, and the operation occurred at night. They had only five feet clearance on either side and the soldiers on the ground lacked the tools to hack down a larger area. They tried doing so with their knives, to no avail. Eventually, the rear rotor hit a tree and the aircraft crashed and burned.
Army Sgt. Matthew Targgart (left) and 1st Lt. Jose Carmona, Logistics Task Force 524, hook a pallet of ammunition to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for delivery to soldiers at Forward Operating Base Lwara, eastern Afghanistan, October 2004. Photo credit: Spc. Cheryl Ransford, USA. Presented by Department of Defense.
Logistics Task Force (LTF) 524 received an alert on October 9, 2004 from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Lwara in eastern Afghanistan. A unit was in trouble and needed more ammo. Speed was of the essence, so sling-loading to a Hook was the fastest option. Four loaders and four helpers were assembled. The helpers would fly aboard to deliver the equipment and bring back the sling-load equipment. The other team would assemble the load and get it hooked up for movement. They got it done, delivering 8,000 lbs of ammo, a large load.
Pfc. Michael Braun, left, the Tail Gunner and Sgt. Andrew Lau, the Flight Engineer, from Bravo Company, 7th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) aboard a CH-47D Chinook Helicopter en route back from the Paktia province to Kandahar, 19 August 2002. The CH-47D had just completed inserting troops from the 82nd Airborne Division as part of Operation Mountain Sweep. Presented by Chinook Helicopter.
Andrew Exum comments about these rear gunners:
"The gunner in the back sat on the very edge of the ramp, confident he would not fall because he was tied down to the helicopter by a four-foot tether."
On June 11, 2006, Dodge Billingsly, shooting footage for NBC during Operation Anaconda, and Lt. Col. Jom Larson of Task Force Rakkasan, ran up to a CH-47 for a ride back to Bagram AB. As they ran toward the rear ramp, the helicopter began taking fire from a ridge, and as they ran up the ramp and into the helicopter, the fire started coming dangerously close to the helicopter. As soon as they were on-board the pilot got his Hook of the ground and started making violent evasive turns to evade the fire. Sgt. Eddy Wall was the rear tail gunner and took on the enemy that had been firing. Then the helicopter came under fire from another location and Wall took them on as well. The CH-47 exited the valley and received no more hostile fire. We expect that Wall was strapped in as his skipper pulled that Hook out of there. Just imagine how the rear of his aircraft was gyrating Wall around while he was trying to kill enemy.
Another look at the tail gunner and his partner. Hang on Sloopy! Presented by Chinook Helicopter.
An Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter prepares to insert Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marines near Methar Lam, Afghanistan, during an operation to capture suspected Anti-Coalition Forces recently. Photo credit: Cpl. James L. Yarboro, U.S. Marine Corps. Presented by Third US Army.
First Sergeant Rudy Romero, B Co., 1-187 Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, has outlined some "Lessons learned during Afghanistan deployment." Regarding air assault with the CH-47, he says this.
"Flying was by far the most dangerous thing we did while we were there because of the terrain and weather. It was always 'seats out' due to the limited number of aircraft and the number of personnel we had to get in. That presents a few problems. Offloading a CH-47 on a hot LZ packed to the gills is an extremely slow process (2-3 min). Landing was the most dangerous part while we were there just because of the conditions and terrain, if you crash without seats and seatbelts you're going to have a lot of broken bones (it happened once). If possible, maybe you could send in the first few lifts with seats in, which will get the helo off the LZ much quicker. Then following aircraft 'seats out.' Food for thought."
He also liked the idea of filling up about three body bags with water and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). The first guys out could unload them and they could be used as a cache for later, following the fight.
A blogger named "Grim" tells of the insertion of India and Lima company Marines from Hawaii to different parts of the Karangai Valley, which is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. He reports that 2nd Lt Caleb Weiss, a Lima Co. platoon commander, said the Army Chinooks with their Marines aboard came in fast and low, and "we jumped off just outside one of our main target's house. They couldn't have had more than a few moments to react to having entire platoons dropped on their heads." The Marines detained several suspects and never fired a shot.
A U.S. Army member refuels a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at a forward deployed firebase in a remote area of Afghanistan. The Chinooks, based out of Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan make daily flights to transport troops and supplies to remote firebases. Presented by Bush Supporter.
There are several ways to be extracted from a mission area by a Chinook. This first approach looks like one of the better ways to do it. A level green for the chopper, and an easy upload for the troops. That said, even these lads look to us like they don't want to lollygag around; they're hoofing their way in to the rear ramp with some not of dispatch.
Korangel Valley, Afghanistan, January 2005. The 3rd Battalion Marines and sailors dash for a waiting CH-47 Chinook helicopter during the extraction phase of Operation Cornhuskers. The Marines used a vertical envelopment strategy to gain access to areas where coming in ground vehicles or on foot would give away their element of surprise. Photo credit: Rich Mattingly, Cpl, USMC. Presented by AirCav.
This next photo, presented by The Combat Edge magazine, shows a Coalition force, we believe Canadian, getting extracted by a CH-47 from a mountainside 7,500 ft. above sea level on May 7, 2002 in Tora Bora. This looks a little tougher. You will recall earlier comments in our Vietnam section about sand and rotor downwash.
Martin Savage, a CNN reporter, tells of a day in March 2002 when he was embedded with a force somewhere in Afghanistan, waiting to be picked up and taken back to Bagram AB. He talks to several subjects about the Chinook, but the one relevant to the above photo goes like this.
"Scottie and I wait in the shallow gap between two hills. We see the chopper (CH-47) coming right for us ... Too right for us! Instead of landing on the hilltop, the pilot's bringing the bus down on our heads. Only seconds before touchdown, we frantically try to scramble up the hillsides, so as not to be landed on. I have this terrifying thought that the distance between us and the scything blades is too short and that we'll be cut in half. The rotor wash sends us tumbling head over heels. We pick up ourselves and our stuff and run back down the way we fled -- right into a man-made tornado. Debris whips past. With our eyes nearly shut, we follow the sound. I know we're getting close when I feel the searing heat of the helicopter's twin engines scorch us. We somehow manage to step up onto the ramp, aided by the rear gunner. Blindly I walk forward and collapse into the chopper's web seats attached to the sides. I feel us rising into the air and turning. Gently the green cradle heads for Bagram and carries me off to sleep."
Some will argue whether this next approach, the pinnacle landing, is easy or not. Interestingly, this kind of landing is used more than we novices would think, especially in Afghanistan, where many Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) are built into the sides of mountains.
On a mission south of Kandahar, Afghanistan, two CH-47D Chinook helicopters (only one shown in this cropped version of the photo) assigned to Company G, 104th Aviation, Army National Guard, from the States of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, conduct an extraction of soldiers employing a pinnacle landing, spring 2004. Presented by Chinook Helicopter
This pinnacle landing technique, to we amateurs, looks exceedingly difficult. ChuckMK23, a former Navy H-46 driver, says not so. He says this is not the most difficult thing to do, "especially if you have a decent crewman giving you good voice commands on the position of the aft end of the aircraft. The Chinook excels at this kind of thing and from a piloting perspective it's one of the features of the aircraft design that make this pretty routine." Another navy pilot said he doesn't do them often, so "it's still a hair raising, stomach turning event."
These can be dangerous. A CH-47D, sometime during 2003, approached a pinnacle site, set his aft landing gear down, stabilized the aircraft, and then the ground gave way and collapsed. The aft wheels slid down the slope, and the aft rotor system contacted the ground. Then the aft pylon separated from the aircraft, and the aircraft came to a rest facing about 180 degrees from its original heading. The aircraft was destroyed by post-crash fire. Fortunately, all souls aboard were safe.
On March 15, 2002, during Operation Anaconda, the Canadians engaged in the first combat employment of a helo-based airmechanized force by a US field commander. The Canadians were attached to the US Army's 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division, and used Army CH-47Ds to air assault their armored tracked BV-206 airmechanized vehicles straight into the fight. This is as opposed to slinging them in, a far more dangerous operation. The tactic is controversial. Presented by Bv-206 Air-Mech-Strike in Afghanistan.
We have earlier described instances of where CH-47s drop their troops virtually on top of their targets, with exiting infantry taking and returning fire almost as soon as they get off the ramp. There is controversy surrounding this technique. On the one hand, you want surprise and you want to nail down the opposing force right away. On the other hand, this is very risky to the infantry and the helicopter assault vehicles. The above photo shows how the Canadians, preferring to have their troops put down away from enemy defenses, used the BV-206 light tracked vehicles brought in aboard accompanying CH-47s. On landing at safer offset LZs, they simply drove them off the rear ramp with their 9-11 troop squad to where they have to fight. Our special forces reportedly drive off their special vehicles and motorcycles as soon as that ramp sets down and opens up.
U.S. soldiers hurriedly load ammunition onto a waiting CH-47 Chinook helicopter destined for troops fighting in the mountains near Gardez, Afghanistan. This scene repeated itself many times as U.S. and coalition forces launched a ground offensive against terrorist Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Keith Reed, USAF. Presented by Defend America.
A CH-47 helicopter gets ready to sling load a Humvee and howitzer back to Salerno Forward Operating Base from the field at the end of the Operation Avalanche. During Avalanche, Chinooks sling loaded nine vehicles, two water-buffalos and 16,000 gallons of fuel and transported around 60,000 pounds of cargos to the field. Photo credit: Spc. Gul A. Alisan. Presented by Defend America.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Bravo Company, 501st Signal Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) prepare to hook a Humvee up to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Photo credit: Spc. Joshua Hutcheson. Presented by Defend America.
While these guys are hooking up a Humvee, we ran across a story by "Uncle Sams Kid" of an experience he had during "hook 'em up" training at Ft. Lewis. They had some old Hueys they used for training, and moved one to the training site perfectly. "The lines were rigged perfectly, all crew knew their places. Just terrific." However, it was not quite so smooth taking her back. The CH-47 came in late, of course, and they started sling-loading and all seemed "green light." He says that "at this point, the 47 is supposed to hover about 4-5 feet above the Huey, the pilot is guided verbally by the crew chief peering down through the winch hatch. Somewhere, someone must have gotten their lines crossed. The next thing you know, the poor private on top of the Huey whose job it was to hand the crew chief the lines and assist in the hook-up, dives off the top of the Huey. The CH-47 has come down a bit too fast, a bit too far." He concludes by saying that the Chinook bounced off the top of the Huey, but once he stabilized this big moose, he hovered, the troops who had just dove off, jumped back up there and completed the hook-up. The Hook then began to raise the Huey. Then there is a series of "Oh shits."
The lines get caught in the Huey's tail rotor, they snag, but miraculously untangle. The Huey is lifted, but no drogue chute deployment. Then the Huey starts to rotate below the Chinook. The CH-47 pilot got everything to stabilize, and then the Huey's side doors opened, causing it to sway back and forth. Well, everyone and everything made it back to base but Uncle Sams Kid does say this: "Seeing the video tape from the ground crew I realized how close we came to being a lawn dart." That's why they train.
Green smoke is used to mark the landing zone for a CH-47 Chinook transporting soldiers into the Hindu Kush Mountains. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Rhonda M. Lawson. Presented by Defend America.
Parade contributing editor, author, and former Marine in Vietnam and recipient of the Navy Cross, James Webb, soon-to-be Senator Webb (D-VA), visited Afghanistan in 2004 to observe the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). He comments about the CH-47:
"To reach this distant outpost (in the shadow of the Pakistani border at the far edge of Afghanistan), we hitch a ride in an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter whose missions for the day include delivering resupply loads. As we fly, Apache helicopters constantly cover our flanks. The many-houred journey from Bagram is routine for these highly skilled pilots, who on the trip must negotiate a foglike sandstorm through hazardous mountain passes and drop off large loads by hovering at the edge of sharp terrain that leaves no room for error."
Staff Sergeant Keith, a military police NCO, flew his first training mission on August 27, 2006 aboard a CH-47, flying from Bagram AB to FOB Ghazni, and back. He comments:
"There were a few times during the flight that when I looked out of the window, I was starring directly at the side of a mountain. The helicopters have to fly through the mountain passes since they are too high to fly over. Bagram is at an elevation of 5000 feet above sea level, and Ghazni is 7200 feet above sea level, and the surrounding mountains rise thousands of feet higher than that. If the helicopters try to fly over them, the air is too thin, and the rotors are unable to create enough lift."
A CH-47 Chinook gunner keeps a lookout from his helicopter's gunner's door while on a mission to extract a U.S. Army Special Forces team from one location and input them into another. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock, USAF. Presented by Defend America
While this gunner is resting easy, Steve Liewer, writing "Soldier's quick thinking saved copter, crew" for Stars and Stripes in July 2005, tells of a Nevada Army National Guard 113th Aviation Regiment gunner who thanks his lucky stars he is still alive. Their CH-47 had just dropped off some Afghan troops 65 miles northeast of Kandahar, they crested a ridgeline on the way out, and enemy forces were there waiting. The aircraft took multiple hits, the fuel line was hit and a fire started inside the main cabin. Among a lot of things that happened aboard this aircraft during the moments ahead, a round pierced the aircraft's skin and tore through the ammo tray of the right side gunner, Sgt. Tim Handforth. In the photo above, the gunner is resting his left hand on the ammo tray!
It is interesting to note that the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, Ft. Carson, trains soldiers assigned to other duties, such as the motor pool, to be CH-47 door gunners. Sgt. John Russo, B Co., says, "This is definitely mission essential. It's one thing they (new soldiers) need to know. It's a lot of cross-training, which is needed. They are also trained in ground operations, in case they caught in an ambush or some other emergency.
US Special Forces soldier standing by with two MH-47Es on the deck. Presented by "Pitbull"
We have not talked much about the MH-47 Special Operations Aircraft (SOA). It can air-to-air refuel, has a fast rope rappelling system, improved navigation, satellite communications, electronic warfare systems, upgraded engines, forward looking infra-red, terrain following avoidance radar, and an external rescue hoist along with modified integrated avionics. She is used for long range transport, required to complete a 5.5 hour cover mission over a 300 nm radius at low level, day or night, adverse weather, over any type terrain, and carry heavy loads.
Amidst the Afghan War, the Kashmir Earthquake of 2005
On October 8, 2005, the United States was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a global war against international terrorism, threatened by North Korea and Iran, and others. Just over a month earlier, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast of the US.
At 8:50 AM Pakistani Standard Time, a 7.6 earthquake struck the Pakistan-administered but disputed region of Kashmir. A month later, the official death toll in Pakistan was over 73,000, with 1,400 dead in India and four in Afghanistan.
The Hook responded, and the first ones there came from the combat inventory in Afghanistan, within 48 hours. Initially, five Hooks and three UH-60 Blackhawks were deployed. At their height of commitment, the Army provided 21 Chinooks at the same time. This ramped down to 12 through the winter and rainy months, and ramped down further to six by late March 2006. Chaklala Air Base was the center of gravity for their operations. We'll show a brief photo gallery, with minimal comment.
U.S. soldiers help a Pakistani man carrying his son evacuate from Muzaffarabad to Islamabad for medical treatment. Between October 10 and October 12, U.S. forces flew about 150 missions, moving 250 people and 45,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. Photo credit: AP/WWP. Presented by US Department of State
Injured Pakistani civilians sit in the cabin of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter on October 8, 2005 during a transport flight to the Pakistan Air Force base in Chaklala, Pakistan for medical treatment. Photo credit: U.S. Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Timothy Smith, USN. Presented by Photoduck.
Aid supplies are distributed while victims from earthquake-afflicted areas are carried onto U.S. Army Chinook helicopters along a river in Balakot, Pakistan, October 12, 2005. Relief operations are being conducted from five staging areas near the earthquake epicenter: Muzaffarabad, Balakot, Rawalakot, Bagh and Manshera. Photo credit: AP/WWP. Presented by US State Department.
U.S. Marines and Pakistani soldiers carry relief supplies at a military base in Muzaffarabad, October 12, 2005. Photo credit: AP/WWP. Presented by US State Department.
A CH-47 Chinook Helicopter crew from the 12th Aviation Brigade from Germany makes preparation to offload cargo at a landing zone in Northern Pakistan on October 12, 2005. Some of the landing zones are in remote locations so travel in and out is very difficult. Presented by US Army Europe.
U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter crewmen and Pakistani military members unload relief supplies in a remote town in Northern Pakistan, October 12, 2005. Photo credit: Spc. Christopher Admire, USA. Presented by Defense Department.
Airmen and Soldiers load a CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter onto a C-5 Galaxy here. Company B, 214th Aviation Regiment of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment at nearby Wheeler Army Air Field, Hawaii, received orders to deploy 60 troops, four helicopters and support equipment to Pakistan to support earthquake relief operations. A total force team here helped load the aircraft October 16, 2006. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo, USAF. Presented by Air Force Reserve Command.
U.S Army Sgt. Tim Bayer and Staff Sgt. Joe Feenstra, crewmembers aboard a CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter, scan the earthquake devastated area en route to delivering disaster relief supplies to areas surrounding city of Balakot, Pakistan, October 17, 2005. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas, USAF. Presented by Defense Department
Crew members of a U.S. Army CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter prepare to deliver disaster relief supplies from a low hover to the earthquake devastated area surrounding the town of Oghi, Pakistan, October 17, 2005. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas, USAF. Presented by Defense Department
Hundreds of Pakistani earthquake victims rush a U.S. Army CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter delivering disaster relief supplies to the earthquake devastated area surrounding city of Balakot, Pakistan, October 17, 2005. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas, USAF. Presented by Defense Department
Pakistani workers help off load humanitarian supplies from a CH-47D Chinook helicopter on October 31, 2005. This resupply mission provided tents, canned goods, and water to one of the hard hit cities of Bagru, Pakistan. Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Dayton Mitchell, USAF. Presented by US State Department.
Villagers from Pangkot, a tiny mountaintop hamlet, arrive by U.S. helicopter at an airbase in Muzaffarabad on November 1, 2005, where they will receive needed medical attention. To date, U.S. helicopters have evacuated nearly 4000 people for immediate medical attention. Photo credit: Christopher M. Wurst, State Department. Presented by US State Department.
A man from the village of Shikar, Pakistan, grieves next to his critically injured daughter aboard a U.S. Army CH-47D Chinook helicopter, on November 7, 2005. She is being airlifted to Chaklala Air Base, Pakistan to be placed in an Intensive Care Unit in Islamabad. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Bruce Dzitko, USAF. Presented by Defense Department
A local truck carrying Australian stores loads an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Islamabad, Pakistan, for a delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies to the earthquake-devastated town of Dhanni in Kashmir, November 15, 2005. Presented by Government of Australia.
An American CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivers supplies for the Australian Defence Force medical detachment in Dhanni as part of Operation Pakistan Assist, November 17, 2006. Presented by Government of Australia.
Australian and Pakistani soldiers take cover from the downwash of an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter landing humanitarian relief supplies in Dhanni, on the Pakistan side of the Kashmir Line Of Control, November 19, 2005. Presented by Government of Australia.