15 of the Most Interesting Helicopters Ever Conceived
Love helicopters? Then here is a selection of some of the most interesting from around the world and history. You are more than welcome.
What is the most advanced helicopter?
While up for debate, most experts consider the AH-64 "Apache" attack helicopter as one of the most advanced combat helicopters. This iconic advanced multi-role attack helicopter, developed by Boeing, has found customers in many of the world's armed forces.
The latest iteration, the AH-64E, comes with some superb upgrades over its earlier models that include greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability, and cognitive decision aiding.
The "Apache" forms the backbone of the U.S. Army attack helicopter fleet, and according to Boeing, has accumulated more than 4.5 million flight hours to date. Somewhere in the region of 2,400 have been delivered so far to customers around the world.
The "Apache" is set to keep its place at the top of the pack for many years to come as Boeing is "committed to the continuous modernization of the program to ensure that AH-64 capabilities outpace adversaries to maintain battlefield dominance today and for decades to come."
What is the most dangerous helicopter?
According to various sources, some of the world's best, and most dangerous, attack helicopters include, but are not limited to:
- The Russian Ka-52 "Alligator"
- The American AH-64 "Apache"
- The Russian Mi-28N "Havoc"
- The European Eurocopter (Airbus) Tiger
- The Chinese CAIC Z-10
- The Italian/Turkish TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK
- The Russian Mi-24 Hind
- The American AH-1Z Viper
What is the newest attack helicopter?
We'll talk more about the "Defiant" a little later in this article, so for now, we'll focus on the "RAIDER".
Touted as a "next-generation light tactical prototype helicopter", the RAIDER has been designed to carry up to six personnel, and carries a range of external weapons that will "redefine helicopter flight during the 21st century".
This chopper is based on the Sikorsky's Collier Award-winning X2 Technology, and features advances in fly-by-wire, flight controls, vehicle management systems, and systems integration.
Such innovations enable the "RAIDER" to operate at high speeds and also maintain low-speed handling qualities and maneuverability of conventional single main rotor helicopters. The prototype has been clocked at 222 knots (407 km/h) and can operate at a ceiling of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).
Designed to meet and exceed the requirements of the U.S. Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), the "RAIDER" could potentially be applied to U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps missions.
According to Lockheed Martin, "the X2 Technology at the heart of the Raider helicopter is scalable to a variety of military missions including light assault, light attack, armed reconnaissance, close-air support, combat search and rescue, and unmanned applications."
What are some of the most interesting helicopters?
And so, without further ado, here are some of the most interesting helicopters ever designed. Trust us when we say this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is one of a kind
One of the most iconic helicopters of all time is the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. First flown in 1961, this tandem rotor helicopter is a true workhorse of the skies.
Designed as a heavy-lifter chopper, each of its 60-foot (18.3 m) rotor blades rotate in opposite directions, providing counter-acting torque and eliminating the need for a tail rotor.
The Chinook is specially designed to be able to independently adjust each rotor to enable it to adapt to the weight of different cargos. She was a development of the older Model 107 (CH-46) and saw service in Vietnam transporting troops, heavy artillery, and other supplies where needed.
Since then, this helicopter has proved to be an invaluable asset to many militaries around the world. She also happens to hold the record as the third-fastest chopper around — the lastest CH-47F can reach a top speed of just over 195 mph (315 km per hour).
2. The Sikorsky H-60 "Black Hawk" Helicopter is an icon of American airpower
First flown in 1974, the Sikorsky H-60 "Black Hawk" is another iconic helicopter. It also happens to be a pretty mean looking machine. Named after a Native American warrior, it officially entered service in 1979 as the U.S. Army's latest assault/utility chopper.
Since then, more than 4,000 units have been produced and they operate for various armed forces around the world including Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Columbia, to name but a few. The helicopter became world-famous after the 2001 blockbuster film "Black Hawk Down".
3. The Russian Mil Mi-24 "Hind" is possibly one of the best military helicopters ever built
Built during the Soviet-era, the Mil Mi-24 "Hind" is one of the coolest-looking helicopters ever built. She was designed to meet the Soviet requirement for a heavily armed and armored transporter helicopter and has become one of the most iconic choppers of all time.
The "Hind" first flew in 1969 and entered service in 1972. It went on to serve in various combat arenas over the following decades. The Mil Mi-24 is powered by 2 Isotov TV3-117 series turbine engines, each pumping out an incredible 2,200 hp.
Her armaments can vary, but typically a "Hind" is equipped with a four-barreled 12.7mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B gatling gun improved through the installation of a 30mm GSh-30K twin-barrel, fixed cannon. Depending on mission needs, she can be fitted with a 23mm GSh-23L cannon in a powered turret. She can also be armed with machine gun pods, anti-tank missiles, and rocket pods.
4. The Bell 222A was the helicopter used in Airwolf
The Bell 222A might seem like an odd choice, given some of the earlier listings, but bear with us. For any American child of the 1980s, the Bell 222A is probably one of the most recognizable helicopters of all for one reason — It was the helicopter used in the highly-popular series Airwolf.
It is sleek, dare we say sexy, and really is a lovely-looking helicopter. Designed for civilian use, the Bell 222A is powered by 2 Honeywell LTS-1010-650 engines. This helicopter has a range of 230 nautical miles (425 km) and a service ceiling of 12,800 feet (3,900 mt). It can carry a crew of 2 and has seating occupancy for up to 5 passengers.
5. The Soviet V-12 is often cited as the biggest helicopter to ever have been built
The Soviet-era Mil V-12 (Mi-12) is probably the world's biggest-ever helicopter. Known to NATO as "Homer", this helicopter was designed, among other things, to transport ICBMs.
Unfortunately for the V-12, by the time it was ready for service, its main purpose was redundant and it never went into production. The idea behind this monster-chopper was to transport missiles in secret to remote bases wherever and whenever needed.
She first flew in 1968, and was longer than a Boeing 737 and could carry more people. It could also carry somewhere in the region of 88,000 pounds (almost 40,000 kg) of cargo.
As US satellites become more advanced, and ICBMs became lighter, the Soviets found it more cost-effective to transport them by truck instead.
6. The Focke-Wulf FW-61 was the world's first
First taking to the air in 1936, the Focke-Wulf FW-61 is generally regarded as the world's first-ever helicopter. Designs for it began in the early 1930s and were inspired by autogyros developed by the British company Cierva Autogiro.
A working model was produced in the mid-1930s, exploring the use of twin-rotors with articulated rotor blades. Each rotor had three blades that employed cyclic pitch — a key feature of helicopter control.
Two full-scale prototypes were built and showcased but the vehicle never went into production. No known originals exist today, but a replica can be found on display a the Hubschraubermuseum in Bückeburg, Germany.
7. The Bell 47 was the first helicopter certified for civilian use
First taking to the air in 1945, the Bell 47 was the first helicopter ever certified for use by civilians. The chopper became a workhorse of the Korean war and beyond, and was made famous by the T.V. series M.A.S.H.
Based on the design for the earlier Bell Model 30, the Bell 47 was first approved for civil use by the CAA in 1946. It was powered by a single Lycoming six-cylinder piston engine, and 18 variants of the helicopter were designed and built over the years.
Today, thousands of them are still airworthy.
8. The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne could have been an excellent helicopter
Another fascinating helicopter is the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne. Widely considered to have been a masterful piece of helicopter design, it never actually saw combat.
A revolutionary attack helicopter, it was once thought that it would revolutionize warfare forever. Sadly that was never to be.
She was developed to meet the United States Army's desire for an advanced helicopter and was born out of a ten-year contract for Lockheed to prototype choppers. It made its first flight in 1967 and proved to have impressive performance and power. It had a top speed of somewhere in the region of just over 244 mph (394 km/h) and could be armed with an XM-140 30 mm cannon, various anti-tank missiles, and missile pods.
A fatal crash, technical issues, excessive weight, and cost overruns, as well as a change in military planning, eventually led to the program being canceled.
9. The Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant is another very fast helicopter
On the cards to replace the aging UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, the SB-1 Defiant is one hell of a helicopter. Currently in its prototype stage, the SB-1 Defiant recently hit a major speed milestone by reaching 236 mph (380 km/h).
A compound coaxial helicopter, this impressive speed was made using only 50% of the chopper's potential power. In the following months, it is hoped to really push the helicopter to its limits.
Its manufacturers are confident it should be able to reach a speed of 290 mph (466km/h). This is well above the U.S. Army's cruise speed requirements for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. The Defiant is currently in competition with Bell's new V-2380 Valor advanced tiltrotor, which has reached eye-watering speeds of 345 mph (555 km/h).
10. The first jet-powered helicopter was the Aerospatiale SA-313 Alouette II
Taking its first flight in 1955, the Aerospatiale SA-313 is a very interesting helicopter indeed. Developed by the then French state-owned Sud Aviation, various rotary designs were trialed before settling on the design used in the SA-313.
Although a very capable and fast helicopter, Sud Aviation decided to include a single shaft turbine from another design, the X.301G. This resulted in the Alouette II becoming the world's first production jet-powered helicopter.
Adding to this interesting design choice, the helicopter immediately began setting records. It managed to reach an altitude of 26,392 feet (8 km) in June of 1956, when it was used to perform a mountain rescue in the Alps.
The helicopter would go on to serve in many armed forces around the world, and more than 1,500 were built. It also became the first helicopter to be equipped with anti-tank munitions.
11. The Bell AH-1 Cobra was the world's first dedicated attack helicopter
Nothing symbolizes pure aggression more than this, first-ever dedicated attack helicopter. The Bell AH-1 Cobra first flew in 1965 and would set the standard for all attack helicopters that would follow.
It was born out of the U.S. Army's desire for a heavily armored and fast helicopter as part of its Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFS). With its narrow forward fuselage, stub wings, and fighter jet-like stepped-up tandem seating, it was like nothing ever seen before.
Quite a few of its components were borrowed from the UH-1 Huey, like its main rotor, engine, and tail boom. The "Cobra" would first see action in the 1968 Tet offensive, where it performed perfectly.
The AH-1 is still in service for the U.S. Marine Corps today along with its younger sibling the Viper.
12. Northrop Grumman's MQ-8 is the first fully autonomous helicopter
The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 first flew in 2002, and it is the first autonomous helicopter deployed en masse. First used aboard the US Navy frigate, McInerney, the MQ-8 is an autonomous, unmanned, rotary-wing scout aircraft.
Arising from the need to replace the aging RQ-2 Pioneer fixed-wing UAV, the Navy required similar capabilities in a larger, unmanned, vertical takeoff launch and recovery scout. The Navy chose Northrop Grumman's design, as it met the Navy's need for range, endurance, and payload (125 NM/3 hours/200 lbs).
The MQ-8, also known as the Fire Scout/Sea Scout, has seen action in Afghanistan and Africa, and been launched from Frigates, Littoral Combat Ships, and Coast Guard cutters. A single Fire Scout set a world record in 2012 when it provided intelligence, surveillance, recon (ISR) coverage for 24-hours over the course of ten flights.
13. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois ("Huey") is one of the most iconic of all time
First flying in 1956, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois ("Huey") is probably one of the world's best-known helicopters. Cementing its place in history during the Vietnam war, when people think of helicopters, the "Huey" is probably the first to spring to mind.
It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 16,000 military (UH-1Y) and civilian (Bell 412) craft have been built to date, and it is still in production.
Initially called the Bell 204, this two-blade main rotor, single shaft turbine-powered helicopter was designed to meet the Army's need for a medical evacuation/instrument trainer/general utility helicopter.
While officially called the "Iroquois", the moniker "Huey" came from its early HU-1 designation. Throughout its history, the "Huey" has seen action in many parts of the world, performing firefighting missions, humanitarian aid efforts, research operations, and search and rescue duties.
14. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is awesome
First flying in the late-1980s and entering service in 2007, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is another very interesting helicopter. Combining the vertical lift capabilities of a helicopter, with the fast-cruise forward flight efficiencies of a fixed-wing turboprop aircraft, the V-22 Osprey officially went into development in the mid-1980s.
By 1989, six prototypes had been built, but the program had a serious setback in the early-1990s when the fourth prototype crashed. The Osprey was approved for full production in 2005, and by 2012, between 24 to 48 were being built each year.
The V-22 has greater speed, range, and lift capability over more conventional helicopters, and can operate easily from ships. This craft is very versatile and carries troops, supplies, weapons, and vehicles wherever they are needed.
It comes armed with 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns and can have a 7.62 mm minigun mounted on its ramp. Plans are in place to put a Gatling gun in the nose of future models, as well as, adding the capacity to carry air-to-ground missile launchers.
The Osprey has seen action all over the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also regularly used for humanitarian missions and has been used in Haiti and Nepal.
15. The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe is a very funny looking helicopter
Another interesting, but perhaps lesser-known helicopter is the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe. Also known as the Skycrane or flying insect, the CH-54 was a heavy load cargo carrier.
First entering service in 1962, its unusual design made it a very versatile helicopter that had various uses, including recovery, rescue, infantry transport, medical supply, and even armored transport operations.
Powered by a pair of Pratt and Whitney T73-P-700 turboshaft engines, the helicopter also came with a crane in the center of its fuselage. The helicopter cut its teeth in the Vietnam war and was widely considered one of the safest to fly.
It was capable of transporting heavy ground vehicles, as well as containers, and parts for engineering projects like bridges and fortifications with its maximum payload of 12 tonnes. The Skycrane was officially retired from military service in 1991, but continues to be used for government and civilian operations.
And that's a wrap. These are but some of the many interesting helicopter designs from around the world.