Army Aviation

Anytime, Anywhere!

Looking Back / Army Aviation, January 1956: Aerial ferrying of H-21 assault helicopters by U.S.A.F. Globemaster transports will provide a highly mobile striking force . . .

The aerial ferrying of H-21 assault helicopters by giant Globemaster transports is under study as a means of sending a highly mobile striking force to virtually any part of the world within hours instead of days, it was revealed by Major General Chester E. McCarty, Commander of the 18th Air Force, U.S.A.F.

C-124 Globemaster swallowing a Piasecki H-21 helicopter

Tests by the 516th Troop Carrier Group at Sewart Air Force Base, Tennessee,[1] with a Piasecki H-21B Workhorse, the heavy-duty helicopter now in service with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Royal Canadian Air Force, showed that the large helicopter could be partially dismantled in a few hours and stored in the C-124 Globemaster without need for overhead cranes or other heavy equipment. It was the first time that a helicopter as large as the H-21 had been made air transportable.

In a tactical Globemaster-Workhorse operation, groups of Globemasters, ferrying both troops and helicopters, could provide a striking force for assault operations in remote parts of the world in a minimum of time.

The Globemasters would land at an airbase nearest to the combat zone. The H-21s would be unloaded and in a few hours, reassembled. The assault troops, then, would board the helicopters and be flown to wherever they were needed.

In pointing out the importance of this operation, General McCarty said, “Airlift of H-21s in C-124s permits utilization of the big rotary wing craft in remote areas where they have never flown before, delivery being made in hours instead of days. In emergencies, the time differential may be critical . . . our five squadrons of helicopters are now air transportable to any point in the world where they are needed by the speediest possible method of transportation.”

In tests conducted under simulated conditions, the Globemaster-equipped 63rd Troop Carrier Wing was alerted simultaneously with the helicopter unit. While a C-124 Globemaster was en-route from its South Carolina base to Sewart Air Force Base, the H-21B was prepared for shipment by rapid disassembly of the 50 foot fuselage into two sections. When the C-124 arrived, the helicopter was loaded aboard. A few moments later the Globemaster was headed for the final destination with its helicopter load, only five hours from the time of the alert. At the destination the helicopter was unloaded, reassembled and, eight hours later on its way.

[1] Sewart Air Force Base, located some 25 miles southeast of Nashville, was in the town of Smyrna. During World War II it was known as Smyrna Army Airfield. The 3,325 acre facility saw to the training of AAF bomber pilots for the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator. In 1948, Smyrna Army Airfield was renamed Smyrna Air Force Base, becoming home for the 314th Troop Carrier Wing. Beginning in 1956, the base became home for helicopter squadrons flying CH-21 Shawnees.

The Air Force named the base for a Tennessee bomber pilot, named Allan J. Sewart, Jr, who was killed-in-action during a bombing mission in the Solomon Islands, 1942.

Sources: See page 7, “Anytime, Anywhere!,” Vol. 4, No. 1, Army Aviation, January 1956.

Adeline, King, “The Air Force Base at Smyrna, Tennessee, 1942-1978,” Rutherford County Historical Society Publication No. 12, Rutherford County Historical Society, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 1979.

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Looking Back, September 2020
By Mark Albertson

“Widespread Debuts” (Page 9, Army Aviation, January 1956)

FORT WORTH, TEXAS—Tomorrow’s helicopter is on display today at Bell Aircraft Corporation’s Fort Worth plant.

Labelled as the Bell XH-40, is a prototype that emerged the winner of the Army’s utility helicopter design competition. Bell’s single-rotor, turbine-powered craft is capable of matching the climbing performance of some World War II fighters, together with the get up and go of many of today’s light airplanes.

A detailed, full-scale mock-up model of the radically different military helicopter was unveiled late in November, more than three months ahead of schedule, for a going-over by a seven-man Mock-up Inspection Board and some 70 Air Force, Army, Navy and civilian advisors and observers. The XH-40 incorporates features both of a revolutionary nature as well as those of a time-tested variety.

Designed for frontline service, Bell’s new offering boasts a low silhouette, a compact configuration, and exceeds the load-carrying capabilities of rivals in its class. The XH-40 was constructed for the easy repair and/or replacement of parts when operating in the field. And, without special tools.

The XH-40 is the first helicopter to provide in-flight blade tracking and, features all-metal rotor blades, a new rotor hub design and the incorporation of a free-wheeling turbine engine resulting in significant savings in weight, wear and maintenance time. Bell engineers predict that the XH-40 will be the first helicopter to have a 1,000 hour flight period between overhauls, compared to the present-day major overhaul period of 600 hours available only with the Bell H-13.

Other unique features designed into the helicopter include permanent work platform and hoist mountings, built-in hub wrench, and simplified structural breakdown for quick and easy field maintenance and repair.

Source: See page 9, “Widespread Debuts,” Vol. 4, No. 1, Army Aviation, January 1956.