There’s one sure way to get troops to hang a permanent nickname on an aircraft — when higher-ups object to it. When the Marine Corps received the Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight in the early 1960s, they dubbed it the “Phrog” because of its frog-like wide-mouthed grin and tail-squatting posture. Boeing marketers complained to the Marine Commandant about the undignified name, but the Phrog went on to become a beloved warhorse for the Corps for more than half a century.
Preceded by such pioneering Piasecki designs as the H-21 “Flying Banana,” the CH-46 has tandem counter-rotating rotors powered by two General Electric T58 turboshaft engines. These are mounted on each side of the rear rotor “doghouse” with a driveshaft to the forward rotor. In an emergency, either engine could power both rotors. Marine and Navy production of the CH-46 ran from 1964 to 1971, when more than 600 were built. Early models were underpowered and demonstrated a structural weakness in the aft fuselage. These shortcomings were corrected in later models and the CH-46 became the Marines’ primary workhorse in Vietnam, used in airmobile assault, logistics and combat support, medevac, and combat search-and-rescue roles. In addition to combat roles, CH-46s were used as rescue helicopters in Canada, Japan, and Sweden. More recently, in 2011, they played a key part in Operation Tomodachi, flying supplies and rescue missions in tsunami-stricken Japan. A common sight in the skies of Afghanistan until recently, the Phrog was finally phased out of combat service in 2014. It has been replaced by the V-22 Osprey.
Built in 1967, CH-46E Bu.153965 came to Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum courtesy of the “Purple Foxes” of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364. It was flown to the Museum directly from its last deployment aboard USS Peleliu during RIMPAC 2014. All Marine Corps CH-46s will be grounded by the end of 2015.