Bell UH-1B Iroquois A2-1020
Delivered in the third batch of Iroquois helicopters for the RAAF, A2-1020 was received from the manufacturers on 12 December 1964, and allocated to No 9 Squadron at RAAF Base Fairbairn in Canberra. With the departure of No 9 Squadron to Vietnam, the aircraft was briefly transferred to No 5 Squadron, also based at Fairbairn, before re-joining No 9 Squadron at Vung Tau in mid-1966. Operations in Vietnam included medevac, troop insertions and extractions, resupply of ground forces and support for special forces operations.
On 18 August 1966, A2-1020 was involved in the most significant Australian action of the Vietnam War. After a heavy mortar attack on the Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat on 17-18 August, Army elements, including D Company of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) were tasked with sweeping the surrounding area to locate this strong enemy force. Heading east towards the small derelict village of Long Tan just 4000 metres from the base, a small group of Viet Cong troops was pursued into the rubber plantation adjacent to the village. Soon after entering the plantation, 11 Platoon of D Company encountered heavy machine gun fire, taking up a defensive position and suffering heavy casualties. Soon over 2500 enemy troops had enveloped the 108 soldiers of D Company, and the Australians faced being over-run if they could be isolated overnight. Initial contacts were so fierce that the unit was critically low on ammunition, and only helicopters could effect a resupply. Two helicopters of No 9 Squadron (A2-1020 and A2-1022) were assigned to the task, and loaded 520 kg of ammunition at Nui Dat. Due to a severe tropical storm in the area, the two aircraft were forced to fly at treetop height over hundreds of enemy troops to locate the Australian position. After a smoke signal from the ground, the two aircraft were able to drop the ammunition right on target, enabling the force to defend their position. After the resupply, artillery barrages and an armoured vehicle convoy forced the enemy force to retreat from the battlefield, suffering 245 killed and hundreds more wounded, while the Australian force lost 18 killed and 21 wounded.
With the re-equipment of No 9 Squadron with the more capable UH-1D model, A2-1020 returned to Australia in April 1968, for service with No 5 Squadron in the training role. Between 1970 and 1983, the aircraft was regularly rotated around units at RAAF Williamtown, NSW, RAAF Pearce in Western Australia, and RAAF Darwin in the Northern Territory in the search and rescue role, as well as returning to No 5 Squadron as a training aircraft.
With the introduction of the Squirrel helicopter in 1984, the UH-1B aircraft were finally retired, and in June of that year, A2-1020 was allotted to the RAAF School of Radio at Laverton as a training aid, along with a number of other UH-1Bs. After the closure of the school in 1993, the aircraft, along with A2-1022 and A2-1024, was transferred to the RAAF Museum.
In 2000, No 21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron began the restoration of the aircraft to its Vietnam War configuration, and the aircraft was relocated to Point Cook for display in 2002.
History of Iroquois A2-384 (Hangar 180)