Marine CH-53A and UH-1N pilot explains why the USMC uses the Huey instead of the UH-60 Black Hawk

Marine CH-53A and UH-1N pilot explains why the USMC uses the Huey instead of the UH-60 Black Hawk

By Dario Leone
Mar 17 2024
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The Black Hawk Multirole Helicopter

The Black Hawk is the military’s most versatile helicopter, suited for a variety of missions, including command and control, air assaults, medical evacuations, and lift operations. Capable of carrying four crew members (two pilots and two crew chiefs) plus a fully equipped 11-person infantry squad, the Black Hawk can also hold a 105 mm howitzer or a Humvee suspended below the aircraft during sling-load operations.

The Black Hawk serves with the US military and the armed forces of 28 other countries worldwide as a tough, reliable utility helicopter.

More than 4,000 Black Hawks of all types are in service worldwide today. The US Army is the largest operator with 2,135 H-60 designated aircraft. The same aircraft sold internationally direct from Sikorsky acquires the S-70 designation.

Marine CH-53A and UH-1N pilot explains why the USMC uses the Huey instead of the Black Hawk Multirole Helicopter

As we have already explained, one of the few military branches that does not use the iconic Black Hawk is the US Marine Corps (USMC).

Jeff Kyle, former USMC CH-53A and UH-1N pilot, explained to The Aviation Geek Club;

US Army UH-60 Black Hawk Crash Kills One, Wounds Three
UH-60 Black Hawk

‘I retired Air Force in ‘07 after 21 years. Prior to the Air Force, I served for 4 years in the Marine Corps. My entire career was maintaining and flying in helicopters. I worked on Marine CH-53A’s and became a Crew Chief. I earned my wings of gold. In the AF I worked on HH-53C’s, HH-3E’s, UH-1N’s and HH-60G’s. My flying career, where I got to count my flight hours, achieved 500 hours in the CH-53A and the UH-1N.
I also worked on U/VH-1N’s, UH-1F’s, CH-53D’s and HH-53B’s, albeit in very limited circumstances.

‘53’s are the heavy haulers, par excellence. H-1’s did a little bit of everything but did it extremely well.

‘The question why we didn’t use H-60’s in the Marine Corps was fairly simple. It couldn’t do the jobs we needed to get done. I’ll explain. The Huey was designed to fly a specific number of troops from point A to point B. The Huey D model derivative was the most successful at performing the mission. The mission was to take a squad into combat, drop them off, then sustain them for the duration of the mission. They literally hauled beans, bullets and unfortunately, body bags. Hueys made an outstanding medivac platform. They were small and they performed small but critical missions that had to be done.

The mission of the UH-60 Black Hawk is basically the same as the UH-1 Huey

‘The H-60 is in essence, is an “electric Huey”. The mission of the H-60 is basically the same as the H-1. The H-60 is across the board a much better, stronger, faster squad helicopter than its predecessor. It does all the same missions for the Army as was done by the Huey. The Air Force and the Navy use highly modified H-60’s. The AF uses theirs as rescue platforms. The Navy does a little bit of everything with theirs. Again, small but very critical jobs done by a small helicopter.

MV-22 Osprey print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. MV-22B Osprey, VMM-163 “Ridge Runners”, YP00, 168011

‘The Marine Corps MV-22’s took over the mission of the H-46, which is aerial assault. Very quickly, get in with a bunch of Marines, drop them off, then go get some more. The key here is numbers. Hauling one squad is insufficient for Marine operations. Packing the numbers of Huey’s or H-60’s on to assault carrier to do the same numbers missions that CH-46’s / MV-22’s wouldn’t be logistically feasible. Again, numbers. One 46/22 carries 20 Marines and all their toys into battle. The same number of Huey’s needed to do the same job would entail using 3 Huey’s. Deck space is at a premium on the helicopter assault carriers. In the long run, numbers decide which airframe can do the job. That job is getting the maximum numbers of troops and trash to the shore.

USMC H-1’s are doing the same job they’ve been doing since Vietnam

‘It’d be a waste of resources expecting a H-53 to haul these lighter loads. 53’s carry the big stuff. Humvees, artillery, LAV’s, whatever is big that needs to be flown to the shore in support of the assault. As a Marine Crew Chief, my Helo carried troop, rations, jeeps, trailers, construction supplies and equipment and any and all big missions.’

Kyle concludes;

‘The Marine H-1’s are doing the same job they’ve been doing since Vietnam. This includes the UH and AH versions. Small critical missions that must be done and nothing else can do them.

‘Hope this helps.

‘Semper Fi, Aim High, Fly Fight Win!’

UH-1Y and AH-1Z
A UH-1Y Venom leads the way for an AH-1Z Viper flying by Mount Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan, March 12, 2017.

Photo credit: Patrick Albright/Army; Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris/Marine Corps via Army Times, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  1. curtisspeck@hotmail.com says:

    The USMC had hitched it’s wagon to Bell Textron with the development, acquisition, and fielding of the MV-22. The UH-1 and AH-1 aren’t better platforms than their Army counterparts (but they are manufactured by Bell Textron), and from a sustainment perspective there are zero efficiencies in being the only service flying them in small quantities. The article has enough flaws that it should be taken down.

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