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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | May 26, 2011

Rotary-wing aircraft: an invaluable asset to Armed Forces

By Senior Airman Amber Russell 459th Public Affairs

The 2011 Joint Service Open House showcased a plethora of military aircraft with aerial performances and static displays during the airshow here May 20 through May 22.

The C-130 Hercules, F/A-18 Hornet, and the newer Coast Guard operated AC-144 Casa were among some of these aircraft. These fixed-wing aircraft support the Armed Forces in carrying out airlift, combat and search and rescue missions. While they are indeed assets to the Armed Forces, the rotary-wing aircraft represented at the 2011 JSOH today prove to be critical as well.

Helicopters do not require a runway for take-off and their unique ability to hover and operate in low visibility conditions allows them to tactically accomplish many missions of the Armed Forces and law enforcement.

"For close air support of our troops, nothing is more effective than a helicopter," Marine Capt. John Alt, 467th Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., stated while showcasing an AH-1W Cobra. "They are an invaluable asset originally intended for use during the Vietnam War for medical evacuation. Their role was significant at that time and has since expanded."

Technology increases the value rotary wing aircraft bring to the Armed Forces. Some models are being phased out in lieu of newer models with more advanced technologies.

"In the last 40 to 50 years, there has been newer technologies that are not always compatible with older helicopters, so it's better to start with a clean slate and build new aircraft," Army Chief Warrant Officer third class Blake Towler, 12th Aviation Battalion pilot, Fort Belvoir, Va., pilot stated. "The UH-72A Lakota is replacing UH-1 or "Huey" helicopters."

The UH-72A Lakota is said to be the best-value solution for the Army's new multi-mission Light Utility Helicopter requirement. Among the newest features are multifunctional displays with integrated GPS and moving maps. The cockpit is encased in glass for increased visibility.

While technology yields to newer capabilities, the UH-1N can still accomplish the intended mission.

Hueys are used for medical evacuation, transportation command and control, air assault and gun ships. They are considered to be the most widely used helicopter in the world, with more than 9 thousand produced since the 1950s, and is flown today by approximately 40 countries.

Huey Pilot Capt. Matthew Kless, from the 1st Helicopter Squadron here, said their mission is to provide airlift for White House, Cabinet, Congress and DoD officials; as well as provide immediate response for national security.

"The aircraft is 1970's technology that includes a couple of radios and GPS. Flying under the Visual Flight Rules, in bad weather we fly low and slow and we get the mission accomplished," Captain Kless said.

Bridging the gap between rotary and fixed wing aircraft, the CU-22 Osprey combines the capabilities of both types of aircraft.

"We have the ability to go into multiple terrains, where fixed-wing aircraft and ground vehicles cannot reach," Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Joiner, 8th Special Operations Squadron flight engineer, Hurlburt Field, Fl., said.

The 8th SOS operates the CV-22 Osprey in support of special operations and is also the first aircraft designed from the ground up to meet the needs of the DoD's four armed services.

The tiltrotor aircraft takes off and lands like a helicopter and once airborne, its engine nacelles can be rotated to convert the aircraft to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight.

Since its inception in the 1930s, rotary-wing aircraft have seen the Armed Forces through many missions, simultaneously supporting law enforcement with drug interdiction and boarder security with the Coast Guard.

Rotary wing aircraft were a highlight in celebrating100 years of Naval Aviation; as well as the 2011 JSOH.