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Hiller YH-32 Hornet
Hiller YH-32 Hornet on display in Seattle's Museum of Flight
The Hiller Museum identifies the YH-32A, named the Sally Rand, as the first helicoptergunship.
Design and development
Hiller Hornet with litter attached in flight, 1951
The Hiller HJ-1 Hornet was an early attempt to build a jet-powered helicopter using ramjets. Before that there had been experiments with the XH-26 Jet Jeep tip rotor pulse jets. The HJ-1 ramjet tipped rotor propels the rotor and the aircraft. Unlike a conventional helicopter, this mechanically simple design avoids the need for a tail rotor.
Unfortunately, the tip speeds on helicopter rotor blades are subsonic, and ramjets are inefficient at subsonic speeds due to low compression ratio of the inlets. Therefore, the Hornet suffered from high fuel consumption and poor range. Also, the vehicle suffered from low translational speeds, and the ramjet tips were extremely noisy. In the event of power loss, autorotation was found to be difficult due to the drag from the ramjet nacelles.
The vehicle exhibited powerful lifting capacity, and there was some hope for military uses, but the high noise, poor range, and high night-time visibility of the ramjet flames failed to attract sales.
The HJ-1 was evaluated by the United States Army as the YH-32, and the United States Navy as the XHOE-1. In 1957 two YH-32s were modified as the YH-32A for trials as armed helicopters. All the fibreglass cockpit fairings were removed and the tail was modified. The tests were successful in proving the viability of the helicopter as a weapons platform, but due to marginal performance, no further conversions or orders were placed. Also, versions were sent to the U.S. Army's DRC to be evaluated in one of their contests involving the research and development of a light weight, air droppable helicopter for air rescue and reconnaissance, and for a portable, easily put together, and fuel efficient 1 man observation and transport copter. It was competing against the Jet Jeep and its pulse jets. Overall the YH-32 won out over the Jet Jeep, but the concept was considered obsolete, and later the program was canceled.
Armed "Sally Rand" version on display at the Hiller Aviation Museum