The Kaman HH-43 Huskie was a helicopter with intermeshing rotors used by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps from the 1950s until the 1970s. It was primarily used for aircraft firefighting and rescue in the close vicinity of air bases, but was later utilized as a short range overland search and rescue aircraft during the Vietnam War. Under the U.S. Navy's pre-1962 aircraft designation system, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps versions were originally designated as the HTK, HOK or HUK, contingent upon their use as training, observation or utility aircraft.
In 1947 Anton Flettner, a former German teacher and inventor, was brought to New York in the United States as part of Operation Paperclip. He was the developer of Germany's Flettner Fl 282 "Kolibri" (Hummingbird), a helicopter which employed the "synchropter" principle of intermeshing rotors, a unique design principle which dispenses with the need for a tail rotor. Anton Flettner settled in the United States and became the chief designer of the Kaman company, where he started to design new helicopters, using the Flettner synchropter design.
The Huskie had an unusual intermeshing contra-rotating twin-rotor arrangement with control effected by servo-flaps. The first prototype flew in 1947 and was adopted by the U.S. Navy with a piston-engine. In 1954 in an experiment by Kaman and the US Navy one HTK-1 was modified and flew with its piston engine replaced by two turbine engines becoming the world's first twin turbine helicopter. Later the Air Force adopted a version with one turboshaft engine: HH-43B and F versions.
This aircraft saw use in the Vietnam War with several detachments of the Pacific Air Rescue Center, the 33d, 36th, 37th, and 38th Air Rescue Squadrons, and the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, where the aircraft was known by its call sign moniker "Pedro". During Vietnam, the two-pilot HH-43 Huskie flew more rescue missions than all other aircraft combined because of the unique hovering capability. The HH-43 was eventually replaced by newer aircraft in the early 1970s.
A USAF Huskie aids a practice firefighting operation at Cam Ranh Bay AB, Vietnam in 1968. Note the aircraft's jungle camouflage paint scheme.
two two-seat aircraft for evaluation
three-seat production version for the United States Navy, later became TH-43A, 29 built
one example for evaluation by the United States Coast Guard
one example for static tests as a drone
prototype of United States Marine Corps version, two built
United States Marine Corps version powered by a 600 hp R-1340-48 Wasp; later became OH-43D, 81 built
United States Navy version of the HOK-1 with R-1340-52 engine; later became UH-43C, 24 built
USAF version of the HOK-1; later became the HH-43A, 18 built
post-1962 designation of the H-43A
H-43A powered by an 860shp T-53-L-1B, three-seats and full rescue equipment; later became HH-43B, 200-built
post-1962 designation of the H-43B
post-1962 designation of the HUK-1
post-1962 designation of the HOK-1
post-1962 designation of the HTK-1
HH-43B powered by an 825 shp T-53-L-11A with a reduced diameter rotors, 42 built and conversions from HH-43B
The Midland Air Museum in Coventry, England is carrying out a restoration on HH-43B, AF Ser. No. 62-4535. The aircraft is usually viewable on display; 24535 is one of only two examples on display in the UK.
The Military Firefighter Heritage Display on Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas has a restored HH-43B on display. The tail number displayed after restoration is 58-1481, but should probably be 58-1841 (its number before restoration, and a number corresponding to an HH-43B). This Huskie was a ground trainer (1959–1976) at Sheppard AFB, Texas, so it retained the square-tail empennage that was removed from almost all other Huskies after repeated rotor strikes in heavy winds.
Kirtland AFB has an HH-43, listed as an F-model, on display at the southeast corner of Doris Avenue and Aberdeen Drive (coord: 35.05446,-106.595158). This may be the same aircraft listed on other websites as being located at the National Atomic Museum which has since moved off-base, but adjacent to, Kirtland AFB.
In addition to museum displays, including the airworthy example at the Olympic Flight Museum, there are also a number of former USAF, USN and USMC Huskies which are in private hands, purchased for agricultural or general operations.
Data fromNational Museum of the United States Air Force