One of the earlier military helicopters, the Bell H-13 Sioux was a light helicopter whose design was developed from the Bell 47.  It was used mainly as an observational aircraft in the early part of the Vietnam War and more recently gained fame when a late-model variant (Bell 47G) appeared in the television series M*A*S*H.

Orders from the US Military

The prototype for the H-13 – the Bell 47 – was first flown on December 8, 1945.  Production of this two-bladed, single engine H-13 later began when the USAAF placed an order in 1947 for an improved version of the 47A model.   They were designated YR-13 and YR-13A (for the winterized version).  In 1948, the US Army requested Bell 47s which would be designated as H-13.  Eventually, the helicopters were eventually given the name Sioux.

From 1947 to 1958, the US Navy obtained a number of Bell 47s designating them HTL-1.  Other variants were also used by the Navy as well as the US Coast Guard.

Brief Design Overview

The Sioux was designed as a basic training helicopter.  It would seat three people and could be easily identified by its full bubble canopy.  Another recognizable feature of the Sioux helicopter was its exposed, welded-tube tail boom and saddle-type fuel tanks.  Variants equipped for medical evacuations had acrylic glass attached to each skid to provide wind protection to the injured being transported.


  • Crew Capacity:  1-3
  • Maximum Speed:  105 mph with a cruise speed of 84 mph
  • Range:  273 miles
  • Service Ceiling:  16,100 feet

Armament (OH-1 Variant):

  • Twin M37C .30cal machine guns (or)
  • Twin M60 Machine guns

While the OH-1 could be equipped with the above armament, it is believed the recoil on the guns put too big a strain on the engine and therefore, they were rarely fortified.

Primary users of the Bell H-13 Sioux helicopter included the U S Army, US Air Force, US Navy and British Army, though variants have been used throughout the world in over four dozen countries.

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