U.S.. Army CH-21 Shawnee
helicopters on Banchee Field, Fort Rucker, Ala., in 1963. A
short time later many were in Vietnam. (U .S. Army)
The HRP-2 was an improved version of the U .S.
Navy's HRP-l Rescuer (listed separately), with a streamlined,
all-metal fuselage skin increasing its performance. Although the
Navy procured only four HRP-2s, preferring instead the smaller
but more capable Piasecki HJP/HUP, the U.S. Air Force purchased
214 H-21s with the name Workhorse and the U .S. Army acquired
another 334 H-21s which were assigned the name Shawnee. From
December 1961 until late 1963 the H-21 was the Army's workhorse
of the Vietnam War, being replaced by the HU-l/UH-l Huey.
Production of the H-21 was started by the Piasecki Helicopter
Corporation, as the firm was known from 1949, but was continued
from 1955 by the successor Vertol Aircraft Corporation.* The
40-series designations were assigned by Vertol. Production
totaled 557 HRP-2/H-21s for U.S. service plus almost 150 for
A U.S. Army H-21 made the first nonstop
transcontinental helicopter flight across the United States on
24 August 1956, traveling 2,610 miles in 37 hours.
The HRP-2/H-21 design was a single-engine,
tandem-rotor helicopter with three-bladed rotors mounted at the
extremities of the fuselage. There was a Plexiglas cabin in the
nose, behind which was the cargo compartment, with the engine
mounted in the rear of the fuselage. The HRP-2 was configured
for 8 passengers or 6 stretchers, while the H-21A could carry 14
troops or 12 stretchers, and the H-21B/C could lift 20 troops.
The Navy aircraft had a 600-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-l;
the Army/Air Force helicopters had a Wright R-1820 piston radial
providing more than twice that power. Two H-21Cs had their
single radials replaced by two General Electric T58 turbo shaft
engines. These were redesignated H-21D. There was no procurement
of this configuration. The H-21s retained the Navy's close-set
tricycle landing gear with fixed undercarriage. However,
helicopters assigned to SAR functions often had doughnut-shaped
floats fitted instead of wheels. Twin vertical fins were usually
fitted at the tail. Several experimental weapon suites were
fitted to Army H-21s, with one Army H-21C being armed with two
.30-caliber and two .50-caliber forward-firing machine guns, a
rocket pack with 24 2.75-inch folding-fin rockets, and two
.30-caliber flexible machine guns fitted at the side doors.
The Marine Corps flew three of the Navy’s
HRP-2s. The Air Force H-21 program began with 18 YH-21s, the
first tandem-rotor helicopter flown by that service.
Subsequently, 33 H-21A models were ordered for USAF SAR
operations, mainly in the Arctic, and another five went to
Canada. These were followed by 334 H-21C variants for U.S. Army
and foreign use. Of the latter, 26 went to the West German Army,
98 to the French Army, 10 to the French Navy, and 6 to the
Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Vertol also produced 11
Model44A helicopters for use by the Swedish Navy, designated HPK-l
by that service.
10 November 1949
YH-21 11 April 1952 Service
Canada, France, West Germany, Japan, Sweden, United States
This H-21 of the u.s.
Air Force's 516th Troop Carrier Group is flying cargo to a radar
station in the Arctic. These helicopters were used extensively
and effectively by the USAAF and Army from the Arctic ice to the
jungles of Vietnam before they were discarded in the mid-1960s.
(The U.S. Army used them in Vietnam until June 1964.) (U.S. Air
Soldiers secure an Army
H-2IC assigned to the 509th Transportation Company. Note the
attitude of the H-21 when at rest; in flight the cabin is level,
increasing crew comfort. The aircraft resembles only
superficially its HRP-1 predecessor. The naval version of
the H-21, the HRP-2 Rescuer, was not produced in significant
numbers. (U.S. Army)
An Army H-21C blasts
away with rockets and machine guns during tests of armed
helicopter configurations. Although such helicopters were used
extensively by the French Army in Algeria (after some
experiments in Indochina), the first true helicopter gunships to
be employed in combat were the U.S. Army UH-IB Hueys of the
Utility Tactical Transport Helicopter Company, which arrived in
South Vietnam in mid-1962. (U.S. Army)
Army CH-21 Shawnee helicopters on Banchee Field, Fort Rucker,
Ala., in 1963. A short time later many were in Vietnam. (U .S.