Bell UH-1 with retractable skids, large belly radar antenna


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May 4, 2008
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I was looking at the SDASM flickr pictures dump and found a Huey modified with retractable skids, ostensibly to afford a 360 degrees field of view to the large rectangular antenna mounted on the bottom of the cabin. I was not aware of such installation.
It reminds me of the FOPEN radar installation trialled on the A-160 hummingbird a decade ago, but obviously the A-160 already had retracts.

[edit: i found this reference:
"JUH-1 SOTAS: At least four units were made for Stand Off Target Acquisition System. The Army started using it in 1979, it was unusual in the sense it had retractable skids to facilitate the radar in flight."
A single UH-60 was also modified at a slightly later date, incorporating retracts as well. Both were precursors to JSTARS]


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Kat Tsun

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Jun 16, 2013
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A brief overview of SOTAS can be found here:

The YUH-1 SOTAS prototypes were deployed to Europe for a period of time (1976-around 1981 or '83) and used operationally under Seventh U.S. Army during that time. It lived with the 1st Armored Division near Ansbach. Basically, GEN G.S. Blanchard liked it so much during REFORGER 76 that he refused to turn it in, and a second helicopter was assembled and shipped to Europe in time for REFORGER 78, where it lived with the 3rd ID(M) in Wuerzburg. Four SOTAS helicopters were programmed in as part of a FSED in FY78 defense appropriations, for Interim-Interim SOTAS, but I'm not sure how many of those four aircraft were actually built or funded, if any.

The YEH-60B SOTAS has little to nothing in common with the YUH-1 SOTAS aside from the name, and is mostly notable for being overengineered and a case study in bad management, sadly. The idea itself is much older than the program, though, and people in Motorola and middle officers in the Army were thinking about the concept of a spinning APS-94 on Hueys as far back as 1966, but the Army didn't take to the idea until around 1974.

It's a shame they never solved the management or technical problems since the radar helicopter living in divisions and ACRs was a much better idea, from a ground force perspective, than the conceptual AWACS being adapted to look at ground targets.


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May 16, 2022
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I flew the SOTAS Huey in FRG, 1980 - 1986. The detachment was in Fleigerhorst airfield, Hanau, east of Frankfurt about 25 - 30 miles. The pod underneath the fuselage was a SLAR pod, similar to the one mounted on the OV-1 Mohawk. Data was transmitted to the ground stations via Ghz burst transmissions. My information was that there were three detachments, the ones in Ansbach and Fleigerhorst and one in Korea. A total of six airframes that were modified. Basically, they were the "proof of concept" predecessors to what would have been the SOTAS Blackhawk. However, the Air Force fielded a system that had the same capabilities and more, at higher altitudes, longer range and was more survivable.

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