Army Aviation History: Top 13 Amazing Facts

Where would the United States be if aviation was never invented? An even bigger question is: where would we be if military aviation was never developed? Well, those are questions that we can only assume answers for, because we have both. Army aviation has been in place for many years, and in today’s post we are going to review the top 13 amazing facts about Army aviation history. At the end, I will share several links that go into deeper extent on the history of Army aviation.

1: Balloon Corps

Army aviation got its start way back during the Civil War. In 1861, Thaddeus Lowe met with President Abraham Lincoln about the use of balloons to perform reconnaissance on the Confederate Army. Lowe showed Lincoln how he could use a balloon to describe everything he saw at the White House. Lincoln was impressed, and the first Army aviation unit was established. The Balloon Corps served the Union Army from 1861 to 1863 at many battle locations.

2: Artillery Aviators

During World War II, the Army Air Force was in operation, but artillery divisions felt they needed more air support. The War Department authorized each Artillery Battalion to have 2 Piper Cub aircraft which were known as Grasshoppers. Artillery personnel were the pilots of these small planes, and they were used to provide coordinates for artillery fire.

3: Army Helicopters In Korea

After World War II, the Army and Air Force were separated. The Air Force started using helicopters, but the Army felt it still needed to maintain an aviation force. When the Korean War began, the Army employed the use of the Bell H-13 helicopters. These helicopters were used for evacuation purposes. It is estimated that during the Korean War, the Army used the Bell H-13s to evacuate over 21,000 wounded soldiers.

4: The Huey

The army found that helicopters were quite beneficial during the Korean War, so between Korea and Vietnam, the Army requested development of faster and safer helicopters. The first turbine powered helicopter was designed just for the Army. These helicopters were called Hueys and were to be used for medical evacuations.

5: The Mohawk

Not only did the Army realize the need for medical evacuation helicopters, they also knew how important aircraft were in surveillance and reconnaissance. At about the same time the Huey was developed, the OV-1 Mohawk airplane was developed for Army surveillance.

6: Whirlybird Weapons

The Army realized that helicopters could be used for more than just evacuations. Several types of helicopters were equipped with machine guns, rockets and missiles. These proved to be very effective. The helicopters that were first manned with weapons were:

7: Separate Branch

In 1983, the Chief of Staff of the Army recommended the formation of a separate aviation branch in the United States Army. On April 12th, 1983, the Secretary of the Army approved that recommendation and Army Aviation was its own entity.

8: Army Aviation Headquarters

The Army Aviation Headquarters is located at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Their motto is: Above The Best.

9: Operation Desert Storm

While many debated the Army aviation, Operation Desert Storm proved the usefulness of Army helicopters. Army Apache helicopters were the first attack vehicles they destroyed radar installations allowing U.S. troops a pathway to victory. They were highly instrumental in nighttime operations too.

10: Drones

In 2003, cutbacks were being made in military spending, but the Army Aviation branch moved forward. The Army Aviation branch was given complete control over unmanned aerial vehicles in Army service. We are now discovering drones can be used in great ways in both offensive and defensive measures. Army Aviation is playing a key role in this.

11: Army Aviation Through The Years

So through the years, Army Aviation was:

U.S. Army Air Corps 1926-1941   U.S. Army AirForces 1941-1947   U.S. Army Aviation 1983-

aircorps_symbol                                            airforces_symbol                                    aviation_symbol

12: Leaders

The leaders at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker are:

  • Major General Michael D. Lundy Commanding General, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence
  • Russell B. Hall Deputy to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence
  • Colonel David J. Francis Deputy Commander, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence
  • Colonel Allan M. Pepin Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence
  • CW5 Allen R. (Randy) Godfrey Chief Warrant Officer of the Aviation Branch
  • Command Sgt. Major Eric C. Thom Command Sergeant Major of the Aviation Branch

13: Current Manned Aircraft Used By The Army

The aircraft that is currently used by the Army consists of:

Cargo or Transport

  • C-12 Huron
  • C-20
  • C-26 Metroliner
  • C-27 Spartan
  • C-31 Troopship
  • C-37
  • UC-35
  • U-27
  • CH-47 Chinook
  • UH-72 Lakota

Reconnaissance

  • EO-5
  • RC-12 Huron
  • DHC-8-315
  • OH-58 Kiowa

Attack, Warfare, Utility

  • AH-6 Little Bird
  • AH-64 Apache Longbow
  • EH-60 Blackhawk
  • MH-47 Chinook
  • MH-60 Blackhawk

Final Thoughts

Army aviation is climbing higher and higher. We would love to hear from any of you Army Aviators. Please post your comments and questions below.

Here are several links to great articles on the history of Army Aviation:

Army Aviation as a Branch, Eighteen Years After the Decision

Aviation in the US. Army, 1919-1939

A History of Army Aviation 1950-1962

The 3 photographs used in #11 are courtesy of Army.mil

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Chuck Holmes

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Email: chuck@part-time-commander.com

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