We had gotten word of Russian
Helicopters operating in the DMZ and talk among the pilots was what a dogfight
between helicopters would be like. That sure would be a first but
since the DMZ was so far
out of our AO there was little chance we would ever see one in person.
Shortly after that I had a single ship flight up the coast around Qui Nhon. We were heading north at normal altitude when we spotted something small flying around just ahead of us. As we got closer we found it to be a tiny dual rotor, single shaft, helicopter, about 8 feet high and 6 feet around, with no place for people and no designation. We did not see any armament and circled it several times. Qui Nhon tower was notified and they did not know anything about it at all. We circled it several more times looking for anything that would identify it. Since the military puts their name on everything I thought we were on to some sort of Russian Spy helicopter.
I talked it over with my peter pilot and had just decided to shoot it down when we got a call on GUARD telling the helicopter circling Navy Drone, such-and–such, south of Qui Nhon, to vacate the area immediately. A quick look around found one heck of a ship way out on the horizon. We knew the New Jersery had just come to Vietnam and was using her big guns to help out in the war. That must have been her. Without hesitation we left the area but not before telling the Navy, on guard, they should have put their name on that thing. It seems the Navy sends out such drones just before a shoot and the drone sends back data as to how much correction is needed and as to what effect the barage had. That data is then fed into the firing specks for the shoot and corrections made to improve the accuracy of the shoot.
That drone was the talk in the cockpit for the rest of the day. I couldn't help but to wonder how much of an allotment would have come out my pay for that thing if I had in fact ordered my crew chief to shoot it down. I also wonder what I would have done had they started to shoot at me with their big guns for shooting down their drone? Guess I would have had to do some pretty fancy flying to get out of that one.
30 some years later, while surfing the Internet trying to find a picture of "The Russian Helicopter" I was fortunate to run into a gentlemen named Don Cook who was kind enough to forward me to a web site that had the information and picture I was looking for. That is the picture you now see associated with this story. Here are Mr. Cook's words on the subject:
"The Gyrodyne aircraft utilized a co-axial rotor system that was fully
tettering so the drone could fit on destroyer hangar deck (2 per ship)
During the Vietnam war, the QH-50 was flown from the USS New Jersey to spot
for their gunnery accuracy. The Aircraft utilized night time, real time TV
and infrared camera's. This set up allowed spotting without having pilots in
a very hazardous environment."