10 Most Amazing Helicopters of the US Military
Helicopters have played a crucial role in both war and peace since their widespread deployment in the 1940s and 1950s. Helicopters are at the heart of everything, whether it’s casualty evacuation, troop transport, disaster relief, or airborne fire support. Helicopter technology has gotten so far along that it is now possible to make hybrid helicopters, advanced attack helicopters, and super heavy transports.
Even though many Western countries have their own helicopter programs, the US and Russia continue to have the largest fleets of helicopters on the market. The following is a list of some of the most notable American helicopter makes and models that have contributed to the helicopter revolution.
This article is the first in a three-part series that will also discuss the best helicopters used by the Russian military and the European military. The list is time-stamped from the first flight’s year onward. To meet these magnificent creatures with rotary wings, please buckle up and settle in.
1. Bell UH-1 Huey (1956)
The UH-1 was a simple and useful design for a helicopter. Its exploits in the Vietnam War made it famous, and its name has become almost a synonym for technology. It was cheap, durable, and exactly what the US Army needed to transport thousands of soldiers through the thick jungles of North Vietnam.
The UH-1, which relied on a single engine, could transport 10–14 soldiers into battle. Each door was equipped with an M60 machine gun that was operated by a gunner. The crew were issued armored seats and body armor to keep them safe from enemy fire during high-risk missions.
The Huey was also very important for getting wounded people from the front lines to field hospitals. It might only take an hour or two to complete. As a result, American casualties were significantly reduced as wartime injuries were treated promptly. The United States Marine Corps continues to rely on these adaptable aircraft, despite having produced more than sixteen thousand of them in the UH-1Y variant.
2. Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (1959)
In the early years of the Cold War, the United States Navy had a serious issue. With over 200 submarines in service, monitoring the Soviet Union’s sub fleet became a major headache. The Sea King, which made its maiden flight in 1959, was designed to address this issue.
It was massive by today’s standards, but it was the first naval helicopter to feature turboshaft engines and an amphibious design that allowed it to land on water. It could do its main job of hunting submarines if it had a dipping sonar, a lot of sonobuoys, a magnetic anomaly detector, depth charges, and torpedoes.
It was the most effective and widely used anti-submarine warfare (ASW) because it could fight submarines from a long distance and had a wide range of attachments.
One of the coolest things about the Sea King is that it can bring space capsules back from orbit. The US Navy Sea King was in charge of getting the capsules back from the ocean after they landed there after a space mission. Apart from anti-submarine warfare, the Sea King plays another major role, and it’s a pretty cool one. From the early 1960s until the present day, this helicopter has been used exclusively to transport the President of the United States of America. When carrying the president, a USMC Sea King is called “Marine One,” and it acts as a mobile office with advanced electronic countermeasures and an armored airframe.
Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom were granted licenses to produce the Sea King, which they then served domestically and exported to other friendly nations. One of the most unusual changes to the Sea King is the Airborne Early Warning Variant. It was made by the United Kingdom after they were embarrassed in the Falklands. Despite being replaced by the Seahawk and retired by the US Navy, the Sea King is still in use by the navies of Brazil, India, Spain, Iran, and Italy.
3. Boeing CH-47 Chinook (1961)
Another instance of a helicopter with its origins in Vietnam and a contemporary incarnation The CH-47 Chinook makes the most of the power from its engines to lift itself. This is made possible by its innovative tandem rotor design.
Since there is no tail rotor, the full force of the engine goes to both main rotors, which spin in different directions and at different heights. Because of this, the Chinook can lift heavy loads into the air. The Chinook is basically a big flying truck that can carry up to 24,000 pounds (10,800 kilograms) underslung, 20,000 pounds (9000 kilograms) inside the cabin, or 55 troops sitting inside.
The Chinook can do something called the “Delta Queen” maneuver, which is an amazing way to get water out of a tight spot. The Chinook lands on the water’s surface, opens its back ramp door, and lets water flood in. This makes for a smooth ride for a special forces boat, which is then lifted out of the water and brought to land safely. The “pinnacle maneuver,” which is unique to the Chinook, involves dropping and picking up troops from a cliff or ledge with only the helicopter’s back wheels touching the ground. Even after its first flight, in the year 2060, it is expected that this dependable heavy lifter will still be in use.
4. Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane (1962)
Well, I guess no one ever thought they’d be able to make a flying crane. The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane was built with this very purpose in mind. This strange-looking machine, which is mostly just a skeleton, can hide a huge payload in what looks like a weak frame. In the space between its tall legs, in the middle, there is a crane that can easily lift up to 25,000 pounds (11,300 kilograms) of weight.
During the Vietnam War, the military version, called the CH-54 Tarhe, was used to pick up more than 380 downed planes. When compared to alternative approaches, this one saved millions of dollars. Tanks, trucks, and soldiers were all transported using this route.
Another one-of-a-kind is used for transporting military pod containers that could be changed into anything from operating rooms to communication equipment.
The civilized version has installed power lines that stretch for thousands of miles.
The helicopter’s versatility was shown by the fact that it could put up transmission towers on a wide range of surfaces. The fire department uses a version that can hold up to 2650 gallons (10,000 liters) of water to put out forest fires. This helicopter is often used in the logging industry, as well as for many other things. You read that correctly. Because of its high lifting capacity, the Skycrane is a good choice for moving logs from remote forests to urban centers, where they can be further processed. There is currently nothing else on the market like it, and it is still being manufactured.
5. Sikorsky’s CH-53 Stallion (1964)
U.S. military helicopters don’t get much bigger than this. The first version with two engines could carry more than 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms), which is about the same as four fully grown rhinos. The US military uses this helicopter to move troops, put in special forces, get injured people to safety, and lift heavy vehicles like trucks.
Due to its design as a marine helicopter, the CH-53 can safely make an emergency landing on the water. The earliest versions saw service in Vietnam, and the newest version is about to go into production. Yet another example of how American helicopter designs have stood the test of time.
As a minesweeper, it serves a purpose unlike any other vessel. The MH-53 variant with three powerful engines can haul 32,000 pounds (14,500 kilograms), enough to pull a minesweeping sled across the ocean’s surface. That makes the helicopter more efficient and safer than a ship when it comes to sweeping mines.
The most recent model, the triple-engined CH-53K King Stallion, has a payload capacity of 35,000 pounds (15,800 kg), which is more than twice as much as the original model. For many years to come, the US Marine Corps will rely on its King Stallions as the foundation of its heavy lift capability.
6. Bell AH-1 Cobra (1965)
The AH-1 grew out of the UH-1 to fill an immediate need for an armored helicopter that could shoot guns, rockets, or missiles. An attack helicopter, it was the first of its kind. It saw extensive combat use in Vietnam after being rushed into service there. It is a very good aerial fire support platform because it is small, has two seats, and moves quickly.
Cobras used to have 7.62 mm miniguns, 40 mm grenade launchers, and rockets. This gave them the ability to kill targets hidden in the jungle’s canopy. Venomous cobras that could sneak up on the Vietcong and destroy everything in their path would have been a terrifying prospect. Over the course of the Vietnam War’s four years, more than a thousand Cobras were manufactured due to their proven usefulness. The AH-1Z Viper is an updated version of the AH-1 that is still used by the US Marine Corps.
7. Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk | SH-60/70 Seahawk (1974)
The Blackhawks replaced the Hueys, and their era began after the Huey’s. It was the UH-1 Huey that carried out the bulk of the US Army’s tactical transport duties. The Blackhawk is a state-of-the-art upgrade that is bigger, shoots better, and has better technology.
The Blackhawk entered service in 1979, but it wasn’t until 1993, when two were shot down in an urban combat environment in Mogadishu, Somalia, that the phrase “Black Hawk Down” became widely used, even becoming the title of a movie about the incident. The UH-60 can carry up to 9000 pounds (4100 kg) externally slung under the aircraft, or 2600 pounds (1200 kg) internally. Twelve soldiers or six stretchers for medical evacuation can fit in the cabin.
The Blackhawk is a very flexible helicopter. Over the years, dozens of different versions have been made, including the famous “Stealth Hawk,” which led to the infamous “Operation Neptune Spear.” The other major version is the SH-60 Seahawk, which is the mainstay of the US Navy for anti-submarine, anti-surface, transport, and search and rescue missions. Each aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ship in the US Navy has a number of Seahawks. Destroyers, on the other hand, usually only have two. The SH-60 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and depth charges, and it features a powerful surface search radar, dipping sonar, and Sonobuoys. Both variants have been a commercial success overseas, with over 20 countries now using them.
8. Boeing AH-64 Apache (1975)
The Apache has been the workhorse of the US military’s ground operations for more than 30 years, and most people agree that it is the most advanced attack helicopter in use today. It was created to take the place of the AH-1 and has become standard issue for the US Army. The fuel tank of the Apache is self-sealing, so it won’t leak fuel if it’s attacked, and its armor can take hits from 23 mm anti-aircraft guns.
The Apache is the most formidable task buster because it is equipped with sixteen Hellfire missiles. More than 5 miles away, there is no match for these high-tech missiles, which are guided by lasers. In addition, it can transport rocket pods for use against unarmored foes. Under the nose is a 30 mm cannon that can discharge 300 rounds per minute. Stinger missiles, which can be used with the Apache, greatly increase the amount of damage it can do. In the late 1990s, long-range radar was added to the Apache. This meant that it could now attack targets from behind cover, making itself less vulnerable to fire. So, the helicopter is a powerful weapon that can do a lot of damage on the battlefield.
9. Bell V-22 Osprey (1989)
The Osprey is like something out of a science fiction movie; it is the ultimate transformer. Because the two propellers are next to each other, it looks like a helicopter when it’s taking off. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but the magic begins just seconds after takeoff. As the rotor blades start to tilt forward along with the wing, the helicopter suddenly changes into a twin-propeller airplane.
This transformer technology is not only nice to look at, but it also has many practical uses. Since this is the case, the US military has ordered hundreds of them and is using them in operations. When in airplane mode, the V-22 can fly twice as fast as a conventional helicopter. It helps a lot with putting in special forces and getting hurt soldiers back across dangerous territory.
10. Sikorsky S-97 Raider (2015)
Even though the United States military doesn’t use it right now, the amazing Sikorsky S-97 raider should be included. The Raider was made because the US Army thought it would need an armed aerial scout. It has many cutting-edge technologies that give it a clear advantage in battle. The helicopter’s pusher propeller and coaxial rotor system are the most striking features.
The latter is typically found on Russian Kamov helicopters. This design is more energy efficient than previous ones because it doesn’t use the tail rotor to stop the main rotor from turning. Coaxial rotors instead provide the necessary lift by canceling out each other’s torque, and a pusher propeller helps keep things in the air.
Rocket pods can be stored in the Raider’s wingtips, allowing it to provide fire support for a squad of six. It can reach speeds of up to 444 kilometers per hour, making it ideal for scouting or troop insertion missions in dangerous environments. This helicopter was made for the US Special Forces because of how fast and useful it is. Even if it is never used by the U.S. military, its design will be improved and more helicopters like it will be made in the years to come.