Why do some helicopters have a spear-like thing extending from the nose?

I’ve looked everywhere for a picture of one, but since I don’t know exactly how to search I haven’t had any success. I see one in particular flying around near Moffet Field, so it could be military, but the spear-thing isn’t a cannon - it’s a single long skinny metal protrusion, which looks like a javelin. It’s dark in color, extends about two feet, parallel to the ground, (not at an angle), directly from the middle bottom of the nose.

Kinda like this:


My first thought was that it was some sort of radio antenna, but if that were the case why don’t all helicopters have antennae there? Then I thought it was a re-fueling device, but it doesn’t extend beyond the top rotor, so I don’t think that’s it either. I can’t think of what else it could be, having little to no knowledge of aircraft and / or the military.

Thanks in advance.

It’s a refueling probe. Not all of them have them. I have seen them most commonly on Blackhawk (UH-60 <?>) helicopters.

They are long, and stick WAY out in front of the aircraft, so that the refueling boom/drogue does not get fouled by the rotors.

This give a nice photograph of one on a Blackhawk chopper.


Accidents still happen

Other things that stick out of the front of helicopters include pitot tubes (for airspeed), and Wire Strike Protection Systems (another picture here)

I live in Sunnyvale under the flightplan, and am a bit of a planespotter.

You’re seeing the HH-60 pavehawk helicopters from the 129th Rescue Wing. As butler1850 said, the thing sticking out of the nose is an in-flight refueling probe. It telescopes out when they need it.

This is their unit history website, where there’s a picture of one in use:

The C-130s that you see flying around have refueling droges that come out of the outer under-wing fuel tanks. Usually when they have the air show there you’ll see them flying around giving a demonstration. I could’ve sworn I had pictures of this, but I can’t seem to track them down.

Well, in all fairness, that wasn’t the drogue that fouled the rotors.

I agree, accidents happen, but this hopefully is the exception, not the rule.

I’d imagine that a failure like that would be an immediate RTB, and hopefully wasn’t outside of the bingo range of the remaining fuel.


(I once drove slightly off the road on to the sand on a rented Harley while driving up the west side of Lake Powell (I think that’s the one formed by the Hoover Dam), while watching one of these fly by. I’ve a bit of an aircraft fetish. The wife and I survived, no crash, just a few large shots of adrenalin)

Yep - that’s it. Ditto butler1850’s picture. I guess I couldn’t tell from that distance that it wasn’t directly under the nose. I didn’t figure it would telescope out, which is why I ruled it out - that’s be some fancy flying to keep from sawing apart the refueling plane with the top rotor. That’s an impressive technology.

BTW, they’re not having airshows anymore at Moffet. :frowning:

Speaking of impressive…

The video of that accident was taken during daylight (as were the photos that I saw linked).

The whole reason for the refueling capability is to be able to get helicopters where they can’t normally go. This most often involves sneaking in, which means doing it at night.

So imagine doing that entire dance at night with night-vision goggles on, and a flight of three helicopters refueling off of one MC-130. At about 500 feet in enemy territory. That’s about as sporty as it gets in the flying world.

I know the OP talked about UH-60s (Blackhawks), but that video is of the enormous MH-53

Damn that’s a big helicopter!

Here’s a picture of refeuling in action.

That site seems to require a subscription?

Huh. I don’t remember subscribing to it.

…and they want $9.99 a month to subscribe.

And I certainly never gave them any money. Weird.