MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The UH-1“Huey” has flown countless operations for the Marine Corps since the Vietnam era, providing a wide range of capabilities from assault support, command and control, and casualty evacuation.
Third Marine Aircraft Wing has the privilege of continuing its legacy with the latest generation of the Huey, the new UH-1Y. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 is the first Marine squadron to train “Yankee” pilots, air crew and maintainers, laying the building blocks for the future of Marine Corps aviation.
“The squadron’s mission is to train initial accession and fleet replacement pilots and aircrew for two models of the Huey, the UH-1N and UH-1Y, and two models of the Cobra, the AH-1W and AH-1Z helicopters,” said Maj. Christopher M. Chown, a UH-1Y instructor with the squadron. “When we train new pilots, we introduce them to the new Huey or “Cobra” with a familiarization stage where they learn basic flight techniques. Then in the next stages, they learn how to fly, land, and take off in different environments. After they learn the basics, we move on to more advanced maneuvers and tactics.”
The squadron is also transitioning current UH-1N and AH-1W pilots to the newer models to become instructor pilots.
“We need a lengthy time to train the brand new pilots and air crew,” said Capt. Patrick J. Sise, a UH-1Y instructor with the squadron. “The course runs between 4 1/2 to six months. To transition current UH-1N pilots, it takes about two months.”
As the fleet transitions to the new aircraft, all the current UH-1N pilots and air crew will eventually switch to the Yankee and the old models will be phased out.
The new models improve on the older Hueys with a bigger fuselage to accommodate new engines, and four main and tail-rotor blades instead of the traditional twin. The new engines grant the helicopter twice the horsepower of the previous model.
“The new engines give us more air speed and enable us to carry 80 percent more, almost twice as far and twice as fast as the older model,” said Chown. “Before, you had to trade fuel to carry more ordnance, equipment, or personnel, so you would have to sacrifice air speed and distance for payload. Now you can carry both without sacrificing either. It’s a much better aircraft all around. I enjoy piloting it and at the same time instructing the Marines who will fly it for years to come.”
The previous model could carry seven rockets on each pod. However, the latest model can carry an additional 12 rockets. The pilots can fire several different types of rockets including, flechette, high explosive, and smoke. Without sacrificing fuel for weapons, the new model boasts the option to carry a combination of the GAU-16 .50-caliber machine gun, the M-240 medium machine gun, and the GAU 17, 7.62 millimeter six barrel mini-gun that the crew chiefs or aerial observers can fire.
Since the aircraft is classed as a utility helicopter, it can perform a variety of tasks. It is capable of high-speed flight with multiple-weapon fire support and troop helicopter support missions, which include airborne command and control and target acquisition. It can also help artillery Marines locate targets; provide assault transport and maritime operations; support aerial reconnaissance; aerial medical evacuation; aid in local search and rescue operations; and conduct tactical recovery of aircraft personnel.
“It’s pretty sweet having the privilege to be one of the few crew chiefs to fly with the new Huey, said Staff Sgt David D. Zubowski, a crew chief with the squadron. “It’s a much better helicopter compared to the November model. It’s an honor to train the first generation of new crew chiefs.”
Currently the squadron has seven UH-1Ys and two AH-1Zs that the Marines can train with. The Marine Corps has already certified the new Huey as operationally capable and a detachment is scheduled to deploy in the near future, with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“As we continue to grow and conduct training in five different types of aircraft, HMLA/T-303 is the largest squadron in the Marine Corps in terms of numbers of pilots, aircrew, mechanics, and personnel,” said Lt. Col. Mark E. Sojourner, the commanding officer of the squadron. “This is our first full year of training with the new models. To date, the squadron has converted nearly 15 UH-1N pilots and 20 aircrew for the new aircraft. The overall success of the program is alive and well and flourishing.”
Third MAW Marines of today are writing a new chapter in the history of Marine aviation, and will continue to build on the legacy already established by the UH-1N and the AH-1W. The addition of the newer and more capable aircraft to the fleet will enhance the H-1 community’s ability to support Marine Corps operations wherever they may be.