D.A.S.H. Goes to War

The first rotary-wing UAV entered military service in 1962—and remained in operation until 1997.

The Gyrodyne QH-50 D.A.S.H. (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter) was the first rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle to enter service. A QH-50C is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. (Dane Penland)
Air & Space Magazine

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The legacy of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) program is mixed, says Roger Connor, the Museum’s vertical-flight curator. “Part of it was a high loss rate due to both electronic malfunctions and operator error,” he says. “Naval aviators also viewed the program as a reckless intrusion onto their turf—or, more literally, their airspace. The program was ahead of its time, both technically and culturally, but its limitations meant that when the ships could support them, manned ASW helicopters were the weapon of choice for the remainder of the 20th century.”

This past December, the Kaman/Lockheed Martin K-Max unmanned helicopters began supplying troops in Afghanistan. “This was an idea that was tested and demonstrated on the QH-50 airframe back in the 1960s,” says Connor. “We’ve really lost a few decades there when we had a remarkable capability on hand, and it’s only now being realized again.”

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