Huey helicopter

Engineers from the US Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East are currently converting the first of three Marine Corps’ UH-1N Huey military utility helicopters into the air force version of the aircraft at the MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina, US.

A total of 26 retired Marine UH-1N Hueys are expected to be taken up by the US Air Force (USAF) for fleet replenishment, but only three aircraft will be transformed and inducted into operational squadrons.

AIR-4.5 H-1 Avionics System engineer lead Paul Aheimer said the conversion of each aircraft includes five significant modifications, of which two require both electrical and structural alterations.

"Installing the new VOR (VHF Omnirange Receiver) / ILS (Instrument Landing System) and FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) systems are probably the most difficult modifications, because integrating these systems into the aircraft requires extensive rewiring," Aheimer added.

"The VOR/ILS being installed is the primary navigation system – once it’s added to the two systems already onboard, it will give air force pilots the same setup they’re used to."

Costing approximately $1m per aircraft, the replacement of the Marine FLIR system with the air force version requires removal of the current video cassette recorder and video display unit, and the installation of a new cockpit display unit, flight engineer display unit, central electronics unit, hand control unit and a VCR.

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Additional tasks include the removal of infrared ring lighting, night vision goggle heads up display, radar warning system, missile warning system, countermeasure dispensing set, IR transmitter system and aural alerting unit, as well as the position locating reporting system.

"We’re removing any equipment the air force doesn’t need, or doesn’t want to introduce because it requires additional training and logistics support," Aheimer noted.

Having completed 30% of conversion work, the first Marine to Air Force Huey is scheduled to be delivered in September.

Image: A FRC-East aircraft electrician converting a former Marine UH-1N Huey to Air Force specifications. Photo: Naval Air Systems Command.

Defence Technology