McFarland's American Military Helicopters and Vertical/Short Landing and Takeoff Aircraft since 1941


E.R. Johnson, drawings by Ted Williams




$49.95 SRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: ISBN: 978-1-4766-7734-7,  Softcover, 486 Pages.

If you have read any of E.R. Johnson's compilations on various other type of aircraft, you know that you can expect a fairly comprehensive book on the subject. This one is no different. The history of the helicopter starts in the 1930s with the first helicopter flight in France in 1935. After this, the major world powers started putting efforts into developing these aircraft. This book concentrates on American helicopters, though Germany also developed and put into service helos during WWII.

The American military helo story starts in 1941 with the Platt-LePage R-1, which was not a successful design. In fact, most the the early US military helicopters were not successful. Those that were, used the basic design of Sikorsky's V-300 with a single main rotor and a tail rotor. It is probably no surprise that it was Sikorsky's R-4 that was the US military's first operational helo, with its combat use in Burma in 1944. This design was continually improved with the subsequent R-5.

From there the design and development cycle grew as did the size of the vehicle. Not surprising is that through the 1950s there were a number of designs which were tried and proved to be unsuited for military use. This includes things like jet rotors, one-man helos, and those on which a soldier stood and moved by shifting his weight. In addition to the unsuccessful types that did not leave prototype stage, there are those that are quite familiar to most of us like the Bell 47, UH-1, H-47, and so on. This includes the development of turbine powered helos fairly early in helicopter development. Towards the end of the section are those which are just entering service or are in development.

Though the section on helicopters takes up about 75% of the book, there is also a section on VTOL, STOVL, and drones. This section is very interesting, and includes some fairly remarkable aircraft that either did not make it past mock-up, were built but never flown, and other interesting protototypes. It includes those that take off via vectored thrust, tilt-wing, and tilt-rotor designs.

The book start off with a nice history of vertical flight and the use of these aircraft in various conflicts. Each subject page provides full statistics on the aircraft as well as a history of the type and if a prototype, its fate. It includes a set of three-view drawings and at least one good photograph of the aircraft in question. It is a superlative reference for the aviation enthusiast and I give it my highest recommendation.

December 2021

Review book courtesy of McFarland Publishing. Visit this link or call 1-800-253-2187 for your copy.

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