Within the U.S military’s vehicle “kit,” helicopters cannot be left out. Sometimes referred to as military aircraft helicopters and military choppers, they play a crucial role in all the military service branches.
U.S military helicopters are categorized based on what they are used for. In general, there are 7 types of military helicopters: attack helicopters, transport helicopters, utility helicopters, observation helicopters, maritime helicopters, search-rescue helicopters, and trainer helicopters.
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Keep reading to find more details on each type of helicopter. We also have pictures to help you visualize! Do not stop until the end!
Table of Contents
List of Helicopter Types (7)
As you have read, there are different military helicopter types; we will look at each in detail now. First, we will start with attack helicopters.
1. Attack Helicopters
This military helicopter type is considered the most lethal. It is made for engaging with enemy targets on the ground. So, it is equipped with an assortment of weapons, such as auto-, machine guns, rockets, etc. It is similar to ground attack fighter jets. But it can fly for a longer period and closer to the ground.
Examples of Attack Helicopters
1. Bell AH-1G Cobra
Manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron, the Bell AH-1G Cobra first flew in 1965. It was the world’s first, and served the U.S military until 2001. Here is what it looks like:
It has a single engine and is often also called the HueyCobra or the Snake, given that it is a member of the Huey helicopter famiy.
2. Boeing AH-64 Apache
- Airspeed: 365 kph or 227 mph
This was manufactured by Boeing, following the Hughes Helicopter buyout. Its first flight was in 1975 but was not officially introduced until 1984. The Boeing AH-64 Apache is still in service today.
Apart from the U.S military, this helicopter is used by Egypt, Israel, and the Netherlands’ Air Forces. It is typically equipped with chain guns, missiles, night vision equipment, and a targeting system.
3. Bell AH-1Z Viper
This Bell-manufactured helicopter first flew in 2000. It was formally introduced in 2010 and is still a part of the military’s helicopter crew.
4. Mil Mi-24 (Hind)
An example outside of the U.S military is the Mil Mi-24 (Hind). It serves in the Russian Air Force. The Mil Mi-24 (Hind) was manufactured by Mil Helicopter Plant and introduced in 1972. It is armored and fitted with auto-cannons (twin-barrel), machine guns, rockets and missile launchers, etc.
- Airspeed: 335 kph or 208 mph
2. Transport Helicopters
This type of military helicopter is often also referred to as a cargo helicopter. In essence, it is the delivery man for troops during missions and operations. In addition, it deploys troops. It moves back and forth between frontlines and bases.
There are three subtypes of military transport helicopters:
- Air Assault Aircraft / Military Helicopters: Move small troops, such as an infantry squad
- Medium Transport Helicopters: Move big troops, such as a platoon. Has an undercarriage to tail light vehicles or artillery along.
- Heavy Lift Transport Helicopters: Move up to 80 troops and their gear at once. Has an internal cargo bay.
Examples of Transport Helicopters
1. Boeing CH-47 Chinook
This transport helicopter was manufactured by Boeing. Its first flight was in 1961. Boeing CH-47 Chinook was introduced in 1962 and has been in service since then. Until today, 1180 of it has been built.
- Note: This is one of the helicopters with two propellers.
Although Boeing CH-47 Chinook is well-known in the list of U.S Army helicopter names, it is also used in India, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Spain’s Air Forces. Here is what it looks like:
- Airspeed: 315 kph or 196 mph
2. Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight
This is another Boeing helicopter. It is a medium-lift tandem rotor transport helicopter. Both the Army and Navy operated it until 2014.
3. Utility Helicopters
This helicopter type is made to have multi-mission capabilities, like aerial attack, transport, search and rescue, medical evacuation, command, control, and surveillance. Out of all the military helicopter types, it is the most common.
Examples of Utility Helicopters
1. Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
You might have seen this in the movie “Black Hawk Down.” It is a relatively new Army helicopter, having replaced the Bell UH-1. Here is a picture of it:
- Airspeed: 357 kph or 222 mph
- Capacity: 11 troops
It has seen combat in various conflicts, such as those in the Middle East, the Balkans, Grenada, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
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2. Aérospatiale Alouette III
This helicopter debuted in 1960. Today, it serves France, Portugal, South Africa, and India’s armed forces. It was designed with standard armaments, like auto-cannons, door-mounted machine guns, anti-tank missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes.
- Airspeed: 210 kph or 130 mph
- Capacity: 5 passengers
3. NHIndustries NH90
This is a medium-sized utility helicopter. It was introduced in 2007, so it is considered relatively modern. It has multi-mission capabilities and is serving in the Air Forces and Naval Forces of European countries, Middle East countries, and Australia. This is what it looks like:
- Airspeed: 300 kph or 190 mph
- Capacity: 20 troops
4. Observation Helicopters
This type of helicopter is designed to spot enemy positions and then direct artillery fires or air strikes. It has cockpits that are large, rounded, and well-glazed for pilots to access unobstructed visibility.
More modern military observation helicopters are additionally equipped with communication systems and optical sensors. In detail, there can be low-light television cameras, forward-looking radars, etc.
Like other armored helicopters, this helicopter type also has weapons for self=protection and destroying the enemy. Standard weapons are auto-cannons, machine guns, missiles, and bombs.
Examples of Observation Helicopters
1. MD Helicopters MH-6 Little Bird
This Little Bird helicopter was manufactured by MD helicopters for the Army Special Operation Forces. It debuted in 1980. Here is a picture of it:
2. Bell H-13 Sioux
From the Bell Aircraft Corporation, this light helicopter was a Bell 47 variant. It was introduced in 1946, a year after its first flight. 2407 of them were made and used until 1974. This is an old picture of it:
3. Bell OH-58 Kiowa
This is another Bell observation helicopter. It also serves as a utility helicopter. On it, troops can benefit from thermal and television imaging systems, laser rangefinders, etc. The U.S army used it until 2020. It was used in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq war.
- Airspeed: 204 kph or 127 mph
4. Aérospatiale Gazelle
This is another 2-in-1 helicopter: observation and utility type. It was a popular choice during the Syrian Civil War, the Lebanon (1982) War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Gulf War. Here is a picture of it:
- Airspeed: 310 kph or 190 mph
5. Kawasaki OH-1
Nicknamed “The Ninja,” this helicopter is a Japanese observation helicopter, serving in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). It can fly up to 278 kph (173 mph) and is equipped with an autopilot system, forward-looking infrared sensor, color TV camera, and laser rangefinder, among other equipment.
- Airspeed: 278 kph or 173 mph
5. Maritime Helicopters
This type of helicopter is made to be operated from sea bases and to perform multi-roles. It can serve as a helicopter for transport, search-rescue, anti-submarine warfare, anti-shipping deterrent, etc.
Since they are used for naval operations, maritime helicopters have anti-saltwater corrosion paint, extra fuel tanks, engine snorkels, and sea-ditching functions.
They are usually designed to save space. For example, you can find folding rotors, hinged tails, etc. Their construction materials are also made to reduce weight while increasing range.
Examples of Maritime Helicopters
1. Sikorsky SH-60 or Sikorsky MH-60 Sea Hawk
This is a helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. It is a variant of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and debuted in 1984. It served diligently in the U.S Navy and Naval Forces of other countries, including Australia, Spain, and Turkey. This is what it looks like:
- Airspeed: 330 kph or 210 mph
- Capacity: 5 troops
2. AgustaWestland AW101
This is a medium-lift helicopter made by the UK and Italy. It debuted in 1999 and at present, is serving in the Royal Navy, Italian Navy, and Danish Air Force. Thanks to its multi-mission capability, it can fulfill various roles. Here is what it looks like:
- Airspeed: 309 kph or 192 mph
- Capacity: 26-45 troops
3. Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King
This is an important player in the U.S Navy for anti-submarine warfare, as implied in its Sea King name. It can perform well in other multi-role operations as well.
- Airspeed: 219 km per hour or 136 mph
- Capacity: 26 troops
6. Search-Rescue Helicopters
This type of helicopter does exactly what its name says. It is used to search for wounded and fallen troops and rescue them. This type was first used in World War II.
But they have since evolved. Modern search-rescue helicopters have advanced avionics and radar systems to make locating more efficient, especially in difficult weather conditions and rugged terrains.
Examples of Search-Rescue Helicopters
1. Sikorsky MH-60G or Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk
This is a search-rescue helicopter currently used by the U.S Air Force and the South Korean Air Force. It is somewhat similar to the UH-60 Black Hawk but still has its unique avionics systems. It can operate date and night and in all weather.
- Airspeed: 294 kph or 183 mph
- Capacity: 12 troops
2. Sikorsky S-61R
This is another search and rescue helicopter from Sikorsky. It was introduced in 1961, and since then, has been used by the U.S Air Force and Coast Guard. Beyond the U.S, it is also operated by the Tunisian Air Force.
- Note: Although it is classified as a search-rescue helicopter, it can double as a medium-lift transport type as well.
- Airspeed: 295 kph or 165 mph
- Capacity: 28 troops
7. Trainer Helicopters
This type of helicopter is usually a spin-off of operation light helicopters. It is primarily used for training pilots. Hence, it has basic flight controls. Usually, one helicopter can accommodate a crew of two.
Trainer helicopters, unlike other helicopter types, do not carry weapons. If they are modified into attack helicopters, though, they may be equipped with weapons.
Examples of Trainer Helicopters
1. Eurocopter EC635 or Airbus Helicopter H135M or TH-135
This helicopter’s original name is Eurocopter EC365. But after being converted for the military, its name is Airbus Helicopter H135M. It is an aircraft with twin engines. It can carry a maximum of 8 people and a range of armaments or equipment. Here is what it looks like:
- Airspeed: 287 kph or 178 mph
This modern military helicopter is operated by the U.S Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. It is made to help provide advanced training to pilots. There are the latest avionics technologies equipped that pilots can avail of.
- Airspeed: 281 kph or 174 mph
3. Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger
This is a military helicopter used by the U.S Navy and Marine Corps. It is well known as a variant of the Bell 206. Here is a picture of it:
- Airspeed: 210 kph or 131 mph
Now, you know all 7 types of military helicopters and examples of each type. Hopefully, you have found it informative and interesting. The pictures should help you visualize the helicopters better, as well. Let us know what you thought of our article in the comments below. If you have anything else to add or ask, feel free to reach out to us in the comments too.
I am Everett Bledsoe, taking on the responsibility of content producer for The Soldiers Project. My purpose in this project is to give honest reviews on the gear utilized and tested over time. Of course, you cannot go wrong when checking out our package of information and guide, too, as they come from reliable sources and years of experience.