The Model QH-50D
Building upon the fleet experience of the QH-50C, and recognizing several deficiencies of the C model, the Navy requested and ordered the improved D model variant of the QH-50 on April 6, 1964. On August 20, 1965, the Navy authorized Gyrodyne to begin installing fiberglass rotor blades on the D model and to retrofit the existing C models with the lower maintenance fiberglass blades.
Through June 1966, Gyrodyne received orders for the Navy's purchase of 377 D model DASH drones, beginning with serial number DS-1382 (1 of 4 modified C models). By the time production ended on August 29, 1969, some 377 "tail-less" QH-50D aircraft had been produced at Gyrodyne's Long Island, New York manufacturing facility for the U.S. Navy with an additional 16 being delivered to the JMSDF and two manufactured for Gyrodyne itself; resulting in a total of 395 D models produced.
While the ASW dedicated QH-50D was
being built and fielded by 1966, the ASW mission it flew from U.S. Naval destroyers was
beginning to be seen as
being largely unnecessary because the SQS-26 detection sonar system needed to take
advantage of the DASH range, that had been part of the FRAM
still not yet available.
During 1966, destroyers were operating with sonars that did not regularly obtain ranges of more than 10,000 yards. Accordingly, while having an operational radius of 30 nautical miles (about 60,000 yards) had been established as a requirement for and had actually been achieved during tests of the DASH drones, the maximum weapon delivery requirement of the drones was only the effective sonar range of the launching ship!
This factor led to eliminating the need for further DASH procurement and
removing DASH from certain ships in the fleet.
In light of the lack of the ability to utilize the range of the DASH QH-50D, the Secretary of Defense decided against further procurement of the drone helicopters and concluded that existing QH-50D drones should be used ONLY on FRAM II destroyers and destroyer escorts of the 1006 and 1021 classes; which did not have ASROC. It was believed that, by using the existing inventory of these DASH drones on only the FRAM II destroyers and the aforementioned destroyer escorts, there would be a sufficient inventory of QH-50D drones on hand to meet the Navy's needs for the foreseeable future and that there would be no need for further procurement of DASH drones.
Subsequently, in December 1967, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the removal of DASH drones from FRAM I destroyers. With QH-50D drone inventory now in excess of the ASW mission requirement, the Navy, in cooperation with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (now called DARPA) began modifying many QH-50D drones in order to expand its role and mission; missions that had been the exclusive realm of manned aircraft, like the aircraft below-right, to better fit the needs to the Navy's then current mission.
The QH-50D Expands the Mission envelope beyond simple ASW
Under NAVY/ARPA Program DESJEZ, a Navy QH-50D, S/N DS-1751,(seen right) launches from the destroyer, USS MOALE (DD-693) on an ASW mission at sea on July 2, 1969.
In program F0251 "DESJEZ", the QH-50D vehicle had the capability of flying at 4700 ft altitude to a distant sonar contact then dropping to sea level for launching of its own eight sono-buoy sensors, loiter while relaying contact information back to the destroyer and then after detection of the submarine target, it could then drop its MK-44 torpedo for target destruction, all at a 50 mile distance from the launching destroyer. DESJEZ aircraft had three long range fuel tanks for the extended range operations up 4 hours in length. The QH-50D no longer was solely reliant on ship's sonar. With this capability, the QH-50D DESJEZ became a hunter-killer platform and was not limited to the ships sonar detection range.
The improvements made over the preceding C model made the expansion of payload capabilities for the D possible and thus, the QH-50D's mission was greatly expanded.
The major improvements found on the D model were:
Taking advantage of the increased payload capabilities of the D model, ARPA had numerous programs in which they extensively "weaponized" the QH-50D. ARPA program "Nite Gazelle" made the QH-50D at left an anti-personnel weapons platform by the installation of two XM-18 Bomblet dispensers and two M5 Turrets- one turret carried an XM129 Grenade Launcher and the other a high resolution TV camera. Both turrets were slaved together so the drone controller could track what he was shooting at. Each Bomblet dispenser consisted of six tubes; each tube held 19 bomblets.
On the right, two separate programs that were merged together further illustrates ARPA's weaponization of the QH-50D; program ATTACK DRONE and GUN SHIP:
1. U.S. Navy QH-50D ATTACK DRONE program, s/n DS-1685 (background-right) is equipped with a telemetry package, Cohu real-time-down linked TV Camera mounted on a calibrated tilt mount with an ordnance load of two MK-81 bombs (250 lbs each).
2. U.S. Navy QH-50D GUN SHIP program, s/n DS-1679 (foreground-right) is equipped with a daylight Cohu TV Camera that is bore sighted to the calibrated tilt mounted General Electric GAU-2B-A Minigun. The camera is used for target acquisition, aiming and damage evaluation. A close up of the General Electric GAU-2B-A Minigun, is seen at left.
The Navy’s development of GUN SHIP and ATTACK DRONE was based on the teaming of the two vehicles with GUN SHIP as lead aircraft to clear a low level flight path to the target point where ATTACK DRONE could release its’ ordnance load on a time critical target; all with zero risk to the operating pilot-some 40 miles out at sea. This system was for deployment to S. Vietnam.
What about Surveillance?
Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target acquisition (RSTA) had actually been the QH-50D's first foray into a non-ASW application. Simply equipped with a real-time TV camera and flying from the same destroyer platforms it used for its ASW role, NAVY program SNOOPY, started in January 1965. The SNOOPY program had a simple goal: Give the Destroyer Commander an "over-the-horizon situational awareness" in order to more accurately target the Destroyer's 5" guns and provide immediate gunnery correction. Soon however, the QH-50D was providing gunnery data for the battleship, USS New Jersey.
ARPA Program NITE PANTHER sought to expand SNOOPY by providing not only real-time TV down-link, but 3 hour loiter capability with a 50 mile operating range from the launching destroyer: Navy QH-50D, S/N DS-1735 (seen left), equipped with 3 separate fuel tanks for long range, aims its low light video camera at the photographer. The aircraft’s range could have been much greater, but the range was limited due to the tracking radar in use in the 1970’s by the launching Destroyers which used radar to track the Vehicle to and from its target.
While ARPA and the Navy discovered that using the QH-50D as a multi-weapons platform was an easy extension of its ASW role, the idea of using the QH-50D as a Target Acquisition vehicle in "enemy active" regions was a novel use of its unmanned aircraft nature and allowed for "high threat environment" missions without the concern for possible loss of the pilot.
As seen at left, is a ARPA program, Nite Gazelle QH-50D equipped with an MTI AN/PPS-5 Radar System. With the system being attached with a Two-Axis tracking mount, this QH-50D transmitted its Airborne Warning Radar information through the telemetry system to ground display for target identification. In this use, the UAV provided over-the-horizon, real-time radar coverage for the launching destroyer. In this role, the QH-50D became the first and ONLY UAV to be ever used in a AWACS application!
Given the success of the SNOOPY,
Nite Panther and Nite Gazelle QH-50D programs, the question of being
to more effectively destroy a target, after enemy target identification and
classification had occurred. ARPA responded with an extension of Nite Gazelle in
which a Laser designator was utilized:
Although great strides were made using the multi-platform capabilities of the QH-50D UAV in its use as a weapons delivery and RSTA platform, DARPA ceased using the aircraft in 1974 due to the draw down in defense expenditures associated with the end of the Vietnam war. With the DASH program having been officially cancelled in November 1970, further strategic and tactical use for the QH-50D ended and the remaining 388 QH-50C and D model drones were transferred to Naval Air Warfare Center-China Lake and U.S. Army's PEO STRI - White Sands Missile Range. There, the unmanned air vehicle that was developed to extend a pilots reach without increasing his risk, was unceremoniously used as a "Target" for "real-kill" missile and anti-helicopter development; over 350 aircraft were simply blown out of the sky before the military began to rethink this policy.
In 1986, The U.S. Navy was running out of QH-50s at an alarming rate because missiles were becoming much better. Believing that the 1965 fly-away cost of $154,000 per aircraft had remained the same, the Navy issued an RFQ for 21 QH-50D drones to be built by Gyrodyne and was stunned to learn that the 1986 cost, using a modern Allison 250-C20S engine (Boeing ceased their engine manufacturing in April 1968 to devote all their resources to the new 747 airliner program) was approximately $ 2.2 million per aircraft. The Navy then began having their existing aircraft "tow" targets to prevent the QH-50s from being shot down and this target-towing continued long after NAWC-China Lake lost their QH-50 program and aircraft to U.S. Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO-STRI) in 1995.
Today, there about 26 QH-50D UAVs that are
still in use at U.S. ARMY
As the QH-50D remains an active asset of the Department of Defense, we supply the following data for those using the aircraft for their payload demonstrations.
The name "Gyrodyne" in its stylized
form above, is the Trademark of and owned by the Gyrodyne Helicopter Historical
Foundation; unauthorized use is PROHIBITED by Federal Law. All Photographs, technical specifications, and
content are herein copyrighted and owned exclusively by Gyrodyne Helicopter
Historical Foundation, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved
The name "Gyrodyne" in its stylized form above, is the Trademark of and owned by the Gyrodyne Helicopter Historical Foundation; unauthorized use is PROHIBITED by Federal Law.
All Photographs, technical specifications, and content are herein copyrighted and owned exclusively by Gyrodyne Helicopter Historical Foundation, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved ©2013.