The Boeing Vertol YUH-61A, also known as Model 179, was a prototype military helicopter developed for the United States Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition in the 1970s. Read more about this whirlybird then add one to your collection from planetags.com.
The Boeing Vertol YUH-61, or Model 179, was a significant helicopter in the history of military aviation, particularly in the context of the United States Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition during the 1970s. The YUH-61 was developed as a twin turbine-engined, medium-lift, military assault/utility helicopter. Its primary purpose was to potentially replace the Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, a mainstay of the U.S. Army at the time.
The YUH-61A, the Army designation for the Boeing Vertol machine, featured notable advancements, such as a four-bladed hingeless main rotor made of composite materials, which provided easier access to critical mechanical components. The helicopter was designed to be robust and mechanically reliable, capable of lifting an entire eleven-man infantry squad or an equivalent weight in cargo. It was required to maintain a minimum cruising speed of 323 km/h (201 mph) at medium altitudes. The specifications included two General Electric T700-GE-700 turboshaft engines, wheeled landing gear, duplicated or armored critical components, manual rotor blade folding, and minimal avionics.
Boeing-Vertol's entry into the UTTAS competition, the Model 237 (later designated as YUH-61), first flew on November 29, 1974. Three prototypes, serial numbers 73-21656, 21657 and 21658, were built and delivered to the Army in March 1976 for evaluation. The competition, which lasted for about eight months, concluded in December 1976 when Sikorsky's entry, the YUH-60A (later known as the UH-60 Black Hawk), was declared the winner. Following the competition, the YUH-61A prototypes were returned to Boeing-Vertol. Aircrafts 73-21656 and 73-21658 are now located at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
The Boeing Vertol YUH-61A was an embodiment of innovation and engineering prowess. At its heart were two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines, chosen for their power and reliability. The helicopter's most distinctive feature was its four-bladed, hingeless main rotor, made from advanced composite materials, which reduced weight and maintenance needs while enhancing performance. The YUH-61A's design focused on versatility and robustness, with a fuselage capable of accommodating up to 20 passengers or equivalent cargo. The aircraft also featured wheeled landing gear and manual rotor blade folding, making it adaptable to various military roles and easy to transport.
The Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) program, launched by the U. S. Army in the early 1970s, was a pivotal initiative aimed at developing a new generation of military helicopters. This program was driven by the Army's need to find a suitable replacement for the UH-1 Iroquois, which had been a mainstay in its operations. The UTTAS program represented a significant leap forward in terms of helicopter capabilities and technology.
In January 1972, the U.S. Army issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the UTTAS program. This RFP outlined specific requirements for the new helicopter, including improved survivability, greater agility, and better performance under a wide range of conditions. The helicopter was expected to have advanced features such as twin engines for increased reliability, ability to carry a fully equipped infantry squad, and enhanced operational range and speed. Key requirements also included a robust design capable of withstanding varying combat environments and improved ease of maintenance.
The UTTAS competition involved rigorous testing to evaluate the helicopters' performance against these requirements. The prototypes underwent extensive flight testing, which included assessments of their maneuverability, lift capacity, speed, endurance, and overall handling characteristics. The evaluation also focused on the helicopters' survivability features, such as resistance to small arms fire and crashworthiness. This comprehensive testing process was crucial in determining which helicopter design would best meet the Army's operational needs for the decades to follow.
The UTTAS program culminated in a head-to-head competition between two leading contenders: the Boeing Vertol YUH-61 and the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. These tests and evaluations were instrumental in pushing the boundaries of helicopter technology, leading to significant advancements in rotorcraft capabilities. The UTTAS program not only resulted in the selection of the UH-60 Black Hawk as the Army's new utility tactical transport aircraft but also set new standards in military helicopter design and performance.
Did you know MotoArt created Black Hawk PlaneTags from an EH-60A? Read about it here: Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk: A Multi-Role Helicopter
Although the YUH-61 ultimately lost to Sikorsky's UH-60 Black Hawk, its participation in the UTTAS competition catalyzed advancements in helicopter technology. The competition highlighted the importance of integrating new materials and design philosophies into rotorcraft. This led to subsequent helicopters featuring more robust, reliable, and efficient systems, a direct outcome of the technological challenges and innovations showcased during the UTTAS program. The legacy of the YUH-61 and the UTTAS competition extends beyond the immediate results of the contest, as they collectively set new standards and expectations for military helicopter design and capabilities, influencing the evolution of rotorcraft for decades to come. Today, the YUH-61A is remembered not just as a missed opportunity but as a critical step in the journey toward modernizing military aviation.
"Finding this aircraft then having the chance to learn about the Boeing Vertol YUH-61 is what makes PlaneTags incredibly fun," says MotoArt owner Dave Hall. "Personally, I wouldn't have known about this prototype and its history at all if we had never stumbled across it." Hall and the team were ecstatic to learn about its role in aviation history.
Our Boeing Vertol YUH-61A, serial number 73-21657, construction number 002, has had an interesting journey, from a military prototype to a piece of cinematic history to PlaneTags. This helicopter was one of the prototypes built in 1975 as part of Boeing Vertol's entry into the UTTAS competition, which aimed to find a replacement for the Bell UH-1 Iroquois.
After its time with the U.S. Army, 73-21657 underwent several transitions. In 2002, it was acquired by Aero Associates and was used for TV and film work. When MotoArt discovered it in 2022, Hall knew it was such a unique find that arrangements were made to find a home for it as soon as possible. The boom, however, had been severely damaged, giving the team an opportunity to save the original skin. Full size patterns were made when the skin was removed, so the boom could later be restored.
“We are incredibly honored to add the YUH-61 to the PlaneTags Encyclopedia ,” says MotoArt owner Dave Hall. “Its role in the evolution of rotorcraft is unmistakable.”
PlaneTags made from this Boeing Vertol YUH-61 will go on sale Wednesday, December 20, 2023 at 12pm PST on planetags.com. It is a limited edition of 1,000, a small run especially for the helicopter fans, so don't miss out! Sign up for our mailing list and SMS notifications to ensure you are notified for every PlaneTags release.
Whirlybird Wednesdays are special releases dedicated to helicopters, offering exclusive and limited-edition PlaneTags that will be sure to captivate any helicopter aficionado. Here are some past Whirlybird Wednesday offerings.
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