The H-43 Huskie Helicopter


The Kaman Aircraft Corporation of Bloomfield, Connecticut manufactured the H-43 Huskie. The Aircraft was designed as a short range (75 mile mission radius) Local Base Rescue (LBR) and Firefighting helicopter. The standard mission crew of 6 consisted of a (RCP) Pilot, (RCCP) Copilot, (FE) Flight Engineer/Crew Chief, (MT) Aero Medical Technician and 2 (ABR) Airborne Rescuemen/Firefighters. The FE usually remained on the ground to launch the aircraft and hook up the sling loaded (FSK) Fire Suppression Kit. If a bailout did occur, time permitting, the ABRs were dropped off and the FE and MT became the primary Aircrew Recovery personnel.


Nick-named “Sputnik”, the FSK contained 78.5 gallons of water, 5 gallons of mechanical foam concentrate, weighed 950 pounds and would generate 690 gallons of aerated foam. The Airborne Rescuemen (ABR) would clear an 8 X 10’ Rescue Path from the edge of the fire to the cockpit facilitating the removal of the trapped pilot.




The Huskie’s unique side by side counter rotating (Syncopter) rotor system provided a powerful downwash that suppressed the height of the flames, injected fresh air, cooled the ABRs and assisted in spreading the aerated foam. Once rescued, the injured pilot would be treated by the MT and flown to the nearest Medical Facility.




Over 200 H-43A, B and F models were built for the USAF and assigned to 100 Air Rescue Units, serving in the United States, Guam and 14 foreign countries. Additionally, the H-43 was also utilized to support the aerial mapping of countries such as Ethiopia and New Guinea. The Huskie established a positive helicopter World Altitude Record of 30,000feet in 1959. Again in 1962-63, the H-43 set 7 World records for helicopters in its class.


In a two year period from 31 January 1962-1964, HH-43 Crews saved 262 military and civilian lives and assisted 1,473 other persons. Many of these were rescued from precarious situations, and undoubtedly would have loss their lives without the help of the H-43.  In addition, Huskies scrambled 12,613 times to assist aircraft in trouble.


This helicopter was never intended to be used in combat.

It was designed to be a Local Base Rescue and Fire Fighting helicopter. Officially known by the USAF as the “Huskie”, it was better known by the Air Rescuemen who flew on it and those it rescued as:





First assigned to DaNang and Bien Hoa Air Bases in the Republic of Viet Nam and to Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base in 1964, the HH-43 remained the only dedicated USAF Rescue Helicopter until the arrival of the HH-3 JOLLY GREENS in late 1965.


There was normally only one JOLLY GREEN GIANT base in Thailand and another in Vietnam.

The Pedros were also assigned to bases inside Vietnam and Thailand. They were assigned as detachments of the 38th Air Rescue & Recovery Squadron and at one time during the war, there were 14 Pedro detachments. Pedros were designated as local base rescue (LBR) and/or aircrew recovery (ACR).


LBR units did not have Pararescue Jumpers (PJs) assigned to them. For most of the war, PJs were assigned to HH-43s designated to accomplish ACR missions. Helicopter mechanics (FE) were also assigned as aircrew members at ACR units.

Most Pedro units were classified as LBR and they used base (MT) Aero Medical Technicians instead of PJs. All Pedro units had (ABR) Airborne Rescuemen/Firefighters assigned. The normal LBR crew was a Pilot, Copilot, (MT) and two (ABRs). The normal ACR crew consisted of Pilot, Copilot, PJ and (FE) Flight Mechanic/Engineer. 

Surprisingly, the record for the fastest save of the war is held by a HH43F assigned to the 37ARRS, 41 ARRW DaNang AB. "Pedro 61" flown by Lieutenants Bill Latham and his co-pilot James Moulton. On 23 November 1972, while on a local flight, they monitored a "Mayday" from an OV-10 FAC. To their surprise, the aircraft impacted several hundred yards in front of them and the pilot in his chute floated down toward a paddy. "Pedro 61" followed the chute down and SGt McCoy jumped out and dragged the pilot back to the helicopter. Total elapsed time from ejection to rescue was one minute and thirty seconds.

Few Americans are aware that the HH-43 was the first USAF SAR helicopter in the war, the last USAF SAR helicopter to leave Vietnam, and that it was credited with more combat saves than either the HH-3 or the HH-53 Jolly Green Giants. This is remarkable considering that it was unarmed, very small, had a relatively short range.


Although its rotor blades were made of wood,

the men who flew on it were made  of steel.


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