AFTER 35 years service in Australia, the Australian Army retired the UH-1H Iroquois helicopter from the gunship role in a formal ceremony on June 26. As part of the ceremony, a ‘Heavy Fire Team’ of three UH-1H gunships — dubbed the ‘Bushranger» in Australia — performed a flypast over Brisbane, accompanied by a fourth Huey flown by the current Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston. Whilst in Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) service, the Hueys were operated by 9 Squadron, of which Houston had previously been commander. After the flypast they landed at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, in the western suburbs of Brisbane, for a media presentation.
Originally entering service with the RAAF in October 1962, when eight of the earlier UH-1B variants joined 9 Squadron at RAAF Base Fairbairn, ACT, these were supplemented by UH-lHs from 1966. The UH-lBs soldiered on until 1985 and all surviving UH-lHs were transferred from the RAAF to the Army in 1986.
The type remains in service with 171 (Command and Liaison) Squadron and the School of Army Aviation, both based at Oakey, Queensland. Eight of these were modified for gunship operations and it is these helicopters, fitted with miniguns and rockets, which are now being retired from the role. They will, however, be retained in service as unarmed ‘slick’ (troop lift) aircraft until retirement of the Huey fleet commences in 2007, when the new Troop Lift Helicopter is introduced under Project Air 9000. The RAAF developed its UH-1H Gunship capability in Vietnam in 1968-9, leading to formation of 9 Squadron Gunship Flight on April 23, 1969.
As the first ‘Aussie Tiger’ Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter is due for delivery in December, it was decided that the gunship Hum can finally be retired. With the recent return of the Black Hawk detachment from East Timor, this is the first time in almost six years that all of the Australian Army’s aviation elements have been at home in Australia rather than overseas.