Special Report

The 25 Helicopters of the Vietnam War

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The Vietnam War has been called America’s “Helicopter War” as the addition of helicopters changed much of how war was handled. These helicopters had many roles, ranging from transport, search and rescue, utility, and especially attack. Some of these helicopters are still in use today.

To identify the helicopters used in the Vietnam War, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a catalog of helicopters from Military Factory. We ordered the helicopters chronologically by when they entered service. We included supplemental information from Military Factory regarding the type of helicopter, armament, year introduced, manufacturer, top speed, number of units manufactured, and which side used them. 

Perhaps the most famous helicopter of the Vietnam War is the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey), which is still in use today, despite making its debut in 1959. This helicopter is particularly adaptable, and its use spanned roles such as transport, medevac, search and rescue, and in some cases an attack helicopter. Roughly 3,300 UH-1 Iroquois were lost in the conflict, while over 5,000 of these helicopters were introduced to the war. (These are the most widely used combat helicopters in the world.)

The Bell AH-1 Cobra would supplant the UH-1 Iroquois in its gunship role in August 1967, with the AH-1 acting as a dedicated attack helicopter. While still in use today with an expanded series of roles, the AH-1 primarily acted  as an escort for air cavalry birds or close-air support during the Vietnam War, in addition to its attack helicopter role. The Iroquois has 7.62mm miniguns or 40mm M129 grenade launchers as its standard armament, with the optional capabilities for more grenade launchers, miniguns, or rocket pods. It is estimated that about 300 Cobras were lost over the course of the war out of the 1,000 or so that had been built in that time.

The North Vietnamese did not use helicopters as extensively as the United States did. One of the few used was the Mi-8 Hip, which acted as a transport helicopter and as fire support. However, it came too late in the war to be used in many battles in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese would later put it to use in subsequent campaigns against Cambodia, Laos, and China. (These are the 27 warplanes in Russia’s Air Force.)

Here’s a look at the helicopters of the Vietnam War.

Bell H-13 Sioux
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Light utility / observation helicopter
> Armament: Usually none, but some were outfitted with air-to-surface anti-tank missiles and .30 caliber medium machine guns
> Year introduced: 1947
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Textron
> Total units produced: 2,400
> Top speed: 106 mph

Hiller OH-23 Raven (Model UH-12)
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: light utility helicopter
> Armament: Usually none, but some were outfitted with 7.62mm medium machine guns
> Year introduced: 1948
> Manufacturer: Hiller Aircraft
> Total units produced: 1,820
> Top speed: 95 mph

Mil Mi-1 (Hare)
> Used by during Vietnam war: North Vietnam
> Type: Light utility / liaison helicopter
> Armament: None
> Year introduced: 1950
> Manufacturer: Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
> Total units produced: 2,600
> Top speed: 115 mph

Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Multi-role transport utility helicopter
> Armament: Usually none but optional if mission dictates. Typically medium / heavy machine guns or rocket pods
> Year introduced: 1950
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 1,728
> Top speed: 101 mph

Mil Mi-4 (Hound)
> Used by during Vietnam war: North Vietnam
> Type: Utility helicopter
> Armament: Rocket pods or conventional drop bombs
> Year introduced: 1953
> Manufacturer: Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
> Total units produced: 4,500
> Top speed: 115 mph

Piasecki H-21 Workhorse
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Cargo / passenger transport tandem-rotor helicopter
> Armament: Optional: 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine guns, rockets fitted to some gunship models
> Year introduced: 1953
> Manufacturer: Piasecki Helicopter / Boeing Vertol
> Total units produced: 500
> Top speed: 127 mph

Sikorsky H-34 / CH-34 Choctaw
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Transport / close-support helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm general purpose machine guns, 18-tube 2.75″ rocket launchers
> Year introduced: 1954
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 1,800
> Top speed: 173 mph

Sikorsky CH-37 Mojave
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Heavy-lift cargo / transport helicopter
> Armament: None
> Year introduced: 1956
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 154
> Top speed: 130 mph

Kaman HH-43 Huskie
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Light utility / rescue helicopter
> Armament: None
> Year introduced: 1958
> Manufacturer: Kaman Aircraft
> Total units produced: 330
> Top speed: 118 mph

Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey)
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Utility / attack / transport helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm general purpose machine guns, 12.7mm heavy machine gun, 7.62mm GAU-17/A miniguns, MK 44 / 46, 2.75″ 7- or 19-tube rocket pods
> Year introduced: 1959
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter
> Total units produced: 16,500
> Top speed: 137 mph

Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Ship-based anti-submarine warfare helicopter
> Armament: Mark 44 / 46 torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, naval depth charges, 7.62mm machine guns
> Year introduced: 1961
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 1,100
> Top speed: 166 mph

Bell UH-1B/C Huey Cobra / Frog
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Gunship helicopter
> Armament: 2.75″ seven-shot rocket pods, 24-shot tube “box” kits, 40mm automatic grenade launcher, .30 caliber machine guns
> Year introduced: 1962
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Textron
> Total units produced: 1,000
> Top speed: 95 mph

Boeing CH-47 Chinook
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Medium-lift, tandem rotor transport helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm general purpose machine guns, some models outfitted with napalm or other drop ordnance
> Year introduced: 1962
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Total units produced: 1,200
> Top speed: 180 mph

Kaman SH-2 Seasprite / Super Seasprite
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Ship-based anti-submarine warfare helicopter
> Armament: MK 46 torpedoes, MK 50 torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, minigunin powered chin mount
> Year introduced: 1962
> Manufacturer: Kaman Aircraft
> Total units produced: 200
> Top speed: 159 mph

Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe / Erickson S-64 Skycrane
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Heavy-lift cargo / firefighting helicopter
> Armament: None
> Year introduced: 1962
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 215
> Top speed: 149 mph

Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Drone anti-submarine helicopter
> Armament: MK 44 / 46 series torpedoes
> Year introduced: 1963
> Manufacturer: Gyrodyne
> Total units produced: 755
> Top speed: 92 mph

Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Medium-lift, tandem rotor transport helicopter
> Armament: None
> Year introduced: 1964
> Manufacturer: Boeing Vertol
> Total units produced: 524
> Top speed: 166 mph

Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (Loach)
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Light observation / attack helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm M60 general purpose machine gun, 7.62mm M134 minigun pod, 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun pod, 2.75″ Hydra 70 rocket pod, TOW anti-tank guided missile pod, AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missile pod
> Year introduced: 1966
> Manufacturer: Hughes Tool Company
> Total units produced: 1,434
> Top speed: 175 mph

Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Heavy-lift transport helicopter
> Armament: 12.7mm BMG XM218 machine guns, 12.7mm BMG GAU-21 machine guns
> Year introduced: 1966
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 417
> Top speed: 196 mph

Bell AH-1 HueyCobra / Cobra
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Dedicated two-seat attack helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm miniguns, 40mm M129 grenade launcher, 2.75″ rocket pods
> Year introduced: 1967
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Textron
> Total units produced: 1,116
> Top speed: 172 mph

Bell Model 206 (JetRanger / LongRanger)
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: light utility helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm machine guns
> Year introduced: 1967
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Textron
> Total units produced: 7,300
> Top speed: 122 mph

Mil Mi-8 (Hip)
> Used by during Vietnam war: North Vietnam
> Type: Medium-lift helicopter
> Armament: UV-16-57 rocket pods, UV-32-57 rocket pods, AT-2 “Swatter” anti-tank missiles, AT-3 “Sagger” anti-tank missiles, 9M17 Phalanga anti-tank missiles, KV-4 12.7mm machine gun, mine dispensers, drop bombs, PK machine guns
> Year introduced: 1967
> Manufacturer: Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
> Total units produced: 12,500
> Top speed: 162 mph

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Search and rescue helicopter
> Armament: 2 x 7.62mm M60 general purpose machine guns
> Year introduced: 1967
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Total units produced: 50
> Top speed: 153 mph

Bell OH-58 Kiowa
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Armed scout and reconnaissance / light attack helicopter
> Armament: 7.62mm machine gun pods, 7.62mm minigun pods, 12.7mm machine gun pods, seven-round Hydra 70 rocket pods, AGM-114C Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Stinger AAMs
> Year introduced: 1969
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Textron
> Total units produced: 2,200
> Top speed: 131 mph

Bell AH-1J SeaCobra
> Used by during Vietnam war: United States
> Type: Dedicated two-seat attack helicopter
> Armament: 20mm M197 triple-barrel gatling-style gun, 2.75″ MK 40 / Hydra rocket pods, Hughes BGM-71A TOW anti-tank missiles, AIM-9M Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, Zuni rocket pods
> Year introduced: 1970
> Manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Textron
> Total units produced: 251
> Top speed: 175 mph

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