Ten Technologies: A Brief Look at Military Evolution — Helicopters

By Carla Voorhees,
Defense Media Activity

This is the sixth in a series of 10 technologies integral to the United States military since World War I.

CH-47 Chinook Helicopter Brings In Sling Load Of Artillery Ammunition During Operation Bolling (U.S. Army Photo)

CH-47 Chinook Helicopter Brings In Sling Load Of Artillery Ammunition During Operation Bolling (U.S. Army Photo)

The helicopter was rapidly developed for the United States military after Igor Sikorsky, a Russian-American, found a way to compensate for the torque effect (where the body tends to rotate opposite the direction of the rotors) in the late 1930s. The first military design was designated the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation’s R-4, and was used primarily for rescue operations performed by the Army Air Forces Air Rescue Service, starting in 1944.

Between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Vietnam war, helicopter use and technology exploded, especially by the U.S. Marine Corps. The helicopter allowed for a quick-moving, agile force that could react to enemy offensives, like airborne cavalry, and deposit troops, weapons, and supplies in the field even in difficult terrain.

Variants include the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, which can handle up to 19,500 lbs, and the CH-54 Skyhook – essentially a flying crane.

The U.S. Army benefits from helicopters, too, with a Program Executive Office Aviation that works exclusively on helicopters, aviation systems, UAVs, and non-standard rotary-wing aircraft.

Sources:

Reaching Translational Lift: The History of the Helicopter and Lessons for 21st Centurey Technology (5 March 2008)

Chinook Fact Sheet

Helicopters At War

Black Hawk Fact Sheet

Vietnam Aviation – U.S. Army Transportation Museum

Skycranes

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