QH-50 Evolution

    This is the brief model history of the ONLY U.S. Navy Fleet deployed Vertical Takeoff or landing, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. As the QH-50A and QH-50B were not fleet deployed, they are not mentioned here.

    The Gyrodyne model QH-50D is a remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in which over 377 were built and delivered to the U.S. Navy as the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) for the DASH weapon system under contracts received in June 1966; see photo right

    Final deliveries occurred in October 1969. Then, the QH-50D was a rotary-winged, anti-submarine weapon carrier designed primarily to deliver two MK44 acoustic homing torpedoes or a Mk 17 Nuclear depth charge using the W 44 warhead and to also have space, weight and power provisions for a special weapon while operating from a destroyer or any ship with DASH capability. 

    The “D” model was an improved variant of the earlier and basic airframe of the QH-50C, but the D model had a more reliable and powerful Boeing T50-BO-12 turbine engine and avionics, and therefore, greater payload. The D model also lost the C models tail as it was found to be unnecessary for stability. Over 373 “C” model QH-50 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Navy under contract NOw 60-0154c.

    The Allison 250-C18 powered QH-50E (see photo-left) was designed and fabricated under Naval Air Systems Command Contract No.N00019-69-C-0361. The QH-50E was built due to the cessation of the Boeing engine production line. Three aircraft were eventually delivered to NATC, Patuxent River, Md. for stability and control tests in 1969 under that contract. The QH-50E is currently the final variant of the QH-50 series and is the aircraft Gyrodyne seeks to use in demonstrating the increase in capability and reliability using state-of-the-art navigation and guidance systems currently available. 

    The only difference between the D and E model QH-50, consist of installing a new engine and engine attachment (see photo-above & left), and altering the direction of flight, which is the reverse of the Model QH-50D in that the engine is installed aft of the rotor mast and the avionics equipment, flotation equipment and fuel tank are forward of the mast. Pictures of the D model showing multi-mission capability, are used as that was the more widely used model for such development work by ARPA.

    The QH-50E was originally powered by a single Allison T63-A-5A, Model 250-C19A, free turbine type gas turbine engine rated at 317 SHP at sea level, standard conditions; see photo above-left. The current Allison engine available for the QH-50 is the 250-C20R. The rotor system is of the two-bladed coaxial semi-rigid type, incorporating fiberglass blades of a 2:1 taper ratio with a negative twist of 12 degrees. The Model QH-50E originally was capable of carrying and launching two (2) MK-44 Torpedoes, or one MK-46 Torpedo, or a special weapon payload of 1500 lbs.

    Acting on the QH-50D/E versatility, ARPA in 1968 to 1974 equipped the QH-50D to perform a multitude of missions from small ship decks. Many of the mission proposals NAVAIR is requesting for today’s UAVs, were actually fulfilled by the QH-50D over 30 years ago! From VERTREP missions carrying 1000 lb crates (GCA project CARGO- see right), to ARPA armed SAR programs such as Nite Panther and Nite Gazelle (seen left and bottom left), the QH-50D carried every form of missile, grenade, and bomb to tactical nuclear weapons at Nellis AFB. 



    The QH-50 remains the world’s ONLY originally designed aircraft specifically built to operate as a heavy payload (over 1000 lbs) VTOL-UAV from small ship decks, like the over 165 U.S. Navy destroyers it operated from for 10 years, until budget cuts associated with the Vietnam War effort forced the cessation of DASH in favor of the Army’s costs of maintaining a 1 million man presence in Vietnam.


     In 2006, after almost 45 years since fleet introduction, the QH-50C/D system stood down at White Sands, New Mexico, under U.S. Army's Executive Office, Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) control, illustrating the fact that if maintained correctly, the aircraft could fly indefinitely. The QH-50C/D remains this nations ONLY VTOL - UAV that has been deployed from small ship decks using its 1500 lb payload for weapons delivery, SAR missions and sensor placements. With an update to its 1960’s vintage automatic flight control system providing the QH-50 autonomous capability, this aircraft’s use from small ship decks is unlimited in the ability to carry out the Navy’s missions of tomorrow with the benefit of lessons learned from the past.


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