Back Hiller YH-32A ULV


A mini-gunship version of the Hornet would mark a major milestone in the rebirth of Army aviation. With Key West constraints on that service's aerial capabilities easing, Hiller in 1955 received the first U.S. contract ever issued for an armed military helicopter. Today largely forgotten, this rotorcraft - a last incarnation of the HOE/H-32 "Hornet" series - was the Hiller YH-32A ULV.

Because it was "stripped to the bare essentials", the ULV (ultralight vehicle) was nicknamed Sally Rand after the fan dancer whose nude performances had enlivened Chicago's Century of Progress Exhibition in 1933. Three YH-32As were built and tested in 1957 at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where they successfully carried and employed combinations of rockets, wire-guided missiles, a 75mm recoilless cannon, land mine detectors, and other equipment. The new craft featured twin tails to accommodate the recoilless cannons, which discharge gases rearward to counteract recoil. Simplicity dictated a return to canted rudders instead of a tail rotor. This helicopter was intended to travel with Army troops in a tarpaulin-covered trailer that housed spare parts, refueling equipment, and ordnance. With its side panels folded down, the trailer also served as the ULV's launch platform.

Under a separate contract, a modified Sally Rand was tested at an abandoned airstrip in central California to determine its vulnerability to enemy action. Although diminutive dimensions made it a difficult target to hit, the craft's size and limited range clearly rendered it unsuitable for operational use. As a proof-of-concept vehicle, however, the YH-32A ULV was successful; it laid groundwork for the U.S. Army's heavy commitment to helicopter firepower during the Vietnam War.

J.P.Spencer "Whirlybirds: A History of the U.S. Helicopter Pioneers", 1998

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