US Marine Corps, November 13, 2009 - CAMP BASTION, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso, Marine Aircraft Group 40 - The sound of four blade rotors echoes across the Helmand sky, as the UH-1Y Huey helicopter made its first combat deployment with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 "Scarface".
The squadron arrived in October, with the first UH-1Y helicopters arriving Oct. 23 on the back of a C-17 aircraft. The UH-1Y made its first flight Nov. 4.
"You wanna mess with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend," said the character Tony Montana in the movie "Scarface".
The UH-1Y is the "little friend" of HMLA-367, as it brings increased speed and carrying capacity, offering a better option for the Afghan terrain than the UH-1N model did for HMLA-169, the squadron being replaced by HMLA-367 in Afghanistan.
The UH-1Y is the most significant and recent upgrade to the battle proven UH-1N Huey, which has been around since Vietnam. The duel engine "Yankee" is equipped with a modified four blade, all composite rotor and has upgraded engines and transmissions to give it increased payload and performance capabilities.
"This aircraft is more agile, has greater speed, range and loiter time, carries more weight and is more survivable on the battlefield," said Lt. Col. William Randall, executive officer of HMLA-367, Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. "All this results in better overall support for that Marine on the ground."
It has been a long time coming for the upgraded Huey.
"I spent five years as a developmental test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where I was involved in the initial ground test, flight test and evaluation of both the UH-1Y Huey and the AH-1Z Cobra," said Randall. "Overall, I have spent almost 11 years of my career working on getting the UH-1Y to the fleet. It's been a great pleasure to see the aircraft come out on its first combat deployment."
The UH-1N has been everything the Marine Corps has wanted it to be, but the UH-1Y simply has more to offer the aviation community and ultimately, the Marines on the ground.
"For years, the Huey community has been unable to perform many of their utility missions simultaneously," said Capt. Alexis Paschedag, a department of safety and standardization officer for HMLA-367. "While the 'November' was able to perform different missions sequentially, the new UH-1Y is able to perform a myriad of utility missions on the same sortie."
As the transition begins between the Vipers of HMLA-169 and Scarface, and from the UH-1N to UH-1Y helicopters, the mission of the light attack squadron remains the same.
"Other than the UH-1Y, Scarface is a lot like the Vipers, whose main effort is giving that Marine or sailor on the ground the best support possible," said Capt. Curt Rose, a pilot training officer for HMLA-367.
"The level and type of support that we can provide the ground combat element is greatly increased. Our ability to go farther, faster, carry more internal cargo and passengers and stay on station longer will greatly enhance the Marine Corps' overall combat effectiveness on each and every mission we support," said Randall.
"The UH-1Y transition is significant because it's never been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq - a definite milestone in Marine Corps aviation history," said Rose.
The results of the transition will require time to assess, but the first UH-1Y on the flight schedule brought more ordnance to the fight, showing the immediate impact of the new air power in Afghanistan.