The Model QH-50C DASH
With 378 aircraft delivered by January 1966 (end of production for the C model) for the U.S. Navy's DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter) weapons program (along with 4 additional manned versions for testing), the QH-50C provided each of the then 160 DASH equipped U.S. Destroyers (2 per destroyer) a lethal capability of delivering two MK-44 homing torpedoes to a sonar contact some 22 miles away from the launching destroyer; far in excess of the then 1-5 mile effective range for ASROC (anti-submarine rocket). Yet DASH was special in that it could be recalled if the target turned out to be friendly. DASH also was reusable; something ASROC was not.
DASH and ASROC were modernization ideas of then 3rd Term, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke (1902-1996). Known as "31-Knot Burke" for his exploits as a destroyer squadron commander in the pacific theatre during World War II, now CNO Admiral Burke (see right-examining a QH-50C on the USS Anderson at San Diego on Sept. 1, 1962) looked for ways to save his beloved WW II era destroyers from the scrappers torch due to obsolescence. He found that solution in a combination of "stand-off" weapon systems called DASH and ASROC-seen left.
simple idea behind DASH was that DASH could attack a submarine at ranges well
outside the submarine's own range of attacking the DASH launching destroyer. CNO
Burke stated this need in his Development Characteristic Number AS-04504-2 of
August 21, 1957, which set the criteria and capabilities for the development of
an unmanned, remotely controlled, drone helicopter for delivery of antisubmarine
warfare weapons from destroyers and other small sized ships. From this
development characteristic DASH evolved. However,
the actual capabilities for DASH to work, was found in the proposed gas-turbine
powered QH-50C model in its ability to carry twin MK-44 homing torpedoes
versus the single weapon carrying QH-50A and B models and also do so using heavy
fuel and not aviation gasoline.
CNO Burke intended to use the DASH and ASROC programs to extend the life of the Destroyers and install them as part of his proposed "Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization" (FRAM) program. The Secretary of the Navy ordered the FRAM program to begin in 1960.
Differing among classes of destroyers, the FRAM application was different for each class and extensive- the FRAM destroyer not only had its' hull and machinery refurbished, but a new superstructure was installed as well. The Sumner and Gearing (a fourteen-foot stretch version of the Sumner class) class destroyers held the greatest promise for expansion of its platform into a force multiplier. There were two levels of FRAM- FRAM-I & II. For purposes of accuracy, both are presented herein:
The QH-50C Part of DASH
While the U.S. Navy began their FRAM programs to update their
destroyers, Gyrodyne received the authorization to proceed with the development
of the QH-50C DASH by the Navy on February 4, 1960 under Contract NOw 60-0099-c
and to supply the Navy with Two QH-50C aircraft for R & D purposes.
To illustrate the urgency of
the DASH program for the Navy's stand-off weapons needs, the Navy granted it's
production authorization on April 4, 1960: some two (2)
months after the R & D go-ahead and ONE YEAR before
the first model had actually even flown! To make matters worse,
the Naval shipyards were a full three years ahead of schedule,
causing completely refurbished FRAM'd Destroyers to go to sea without the DASH
system that they had been extensively modified to operate in the first place.
This "ship-to-drone gap" together with the stand-off
capabilities previously demonstrated by the QH-50A/B models created a strong
pressure on the Navy and on Gyrodyne to expedite development and delivery of the
This pressure caused production to slip as developmental problems occurred with the Navy's "off-the-shelf" flight control system. These problems began to occur in test and on the production line (seen left). Despite the initial order of Two QH-50C drones not having being delivered by the December 1960 deadline and therefore the flight testing not having yet begun, the Navy nevertheless ordered an additional 42 PRODUCTION model QH-50C aircraft for fleet use. In the following 35 months, the QH-50C test program was conducted and did reveal many deficiencies of the Drone. Gyrodyne proposed several modifications to the "in-testing" drones, but such action would have halted the production line. The Navy declined the contract to modify the aircraft on the line as well as aircraft already delivered.
The first operational drones were delivered to the fleet when a QH-50C was remotely flown from San Clemente Island, California out to the destroyer USS Buck (DD-761) on November 15, 1962. It had been only 2 years, eight months and one week after the award for the development contract.
Unfortunately, from November 1962 to January 1963, 27 QH-50C drones were lost and the trend showed that further losses would occur if the deployed aircraft were not fixed. The Navy agreed to a mandatory grounding in January 1963.
The major problem dealt with the altitude axis of the automatic flight control system which had been designed to use a Government-furnished (GFE) radar altimeter. With the vendor responsible for the GFE radar altimeter not complying with the goals of the program and no other source available at that time for installation in a remote controlled helicopter, other methods had to be investigated for stabilization of the altitude axis. In January 1963, Gyrodyne requested that all QH-50C aircraft be grounded until the problem could be solved.
Gyrodyne then initiated a crash program to solve the problem by using a barometric altimeter. This led to the development of a static source mounting assembly on the top of the upper rotor drive shaft. The concept of the installation is so unique that it not only solved the vertical axis problem for the QH-50C, but it turned out to be a patentable item in which Gyrodyne received patent no. 3,347,095.
By June 6, 1963, the problem with the "stabilization of the altitude axis" had been solved and the Navy ordered an additional 127 QH-50C aircraft and the production line began to move once again. On February 1964, the Navy placed an additional order for 185 QH-50C aircraft.
There is no question that the Navy's rush to field the QH-50C
resulted in inadequate testing and evaluation. This lack of testing of the GFE
automatic flight control system coupled to the coaxial platform resulted in
drone losses. It should be pointed out, that these losses were NOT due to the
airframe, but rather the obsolete radio-controlled automatic flight control
system the Navy insisted upon using.
In April 1964, the Navy
directed Gyrodyne to reconfigure 4 QH-50C drones on the production line (seen
overcome the problems associated with lacking all-weather capability and to
increase guidance accuracy. Those aircraft would become the QH-50D
and the most versatile variant of the QH-50 series of drones. With the
introduction of the QH-50D to the fleet in mid 1965, the Navy began to replace
the lower powered and more troublesome QH-50C with the improved D model.
By 1998, the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office, Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) was the sole user of the QH-50C, having acquired the China Lake assets during the base re-alignment program.
What Happened to the FRAM Destroyers that the QH-50C started flying from?
By 1970, all Sumners and Gearing class destroyers had been retired from the U.S. Navy and most transferred or sold to foreign countries, such as Taiwan and Turkey to serve in their Navy. Although most of those ships have since been scrapped, three examples of DASH equipped Destroyers survive today as memorials. The USS Laffey (DD-724), a Sumner class, is at Patriots Point Naval Museum, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina with a DASH sitting on the flight deck. The USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (DD-850), a Gearing, is undergoing restoration at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts. The USS Orleck (DD-886), a Gearing, is also currently undergoing restoration by the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation, Orange, Texas. Although Orleck and the Kennedy flew DASH and the surveillance model of the QH-50D, called "SNOOPY" over Vietnam, Orleck and the Kennedy museums are restoring their ships to the time DASH flew in the ASW role. Both Orleck and Kennedy have acquired a QH-50C and the ship based equipment for their ships and are currently restoring their flight decks, hangars and aircraft. The USS Laffey uses its hangar as a multi-destroyer with the QH-50C placed on their flight deck. You can view our Museums page to see where other QH-50's are exhibited.
Today, there are about SIX surviving QH-50C's that are still used by the United States Army. These aircraft, originally built for Naval shipboard use, are achieving a 97% readiness rate in the deserts of New Mexico over the past 17 years. This rate is reported by the contractor operating the aircraft, for the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office, Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). Although its torpedo delivery days are over, the QH-50C continues to be an active asset for the U.S. Military as a target towing vehicle in order to develop more precise missiles for the war fighter in the field.
There are 8 known examples of QH-50C that are available for viewing in museums.
As the QH-50C remains an active asset of the Department of Defense after outliving every ship it was deployed on as DASH, and by an additional 30 years as well, Gyrodyne Helicopter Historical Foundation is proud to submit the following data on this historic aircraft that just won't quit!
If you still haven't seen enough of a QH-50C, A model builder by the name of Ben Gunther scratch built a 1/48 scale model of one and won Best of Show at the 1997 IPMS (USA) National Convention in Ohio. Click on the C model icon below to go to that page!
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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.