When a person considers air flight with the United States Army, the first thing that comes to mind is helicopters.
The U.S. Army uses helicopters for various reasons.
- and more
Helicopters are one of the U.S. Army’s main tools.
Let’s look at a brief history of the U.S. Army helicopter.
The history of using helicopters in the U.S. Army
The United States Air Force started as a branch of the U.S. Army.
So aviation became a huge part of the Army’s means of warfare during World War II.
The Air Force became an independent force, but the Army would not completely let go of aviation.
During the Korean War, the Army used helicopters primarily as a means of medical evacuation and transportation of supplies.
Helicopters became a huge part of the Army’s methods and they grew even stronger in Vietnam.
In today’s post, I am going to list the top 15 Army helicopters of all time.
Now of course, these are just my opinion, but I am using historical data to determine this top list.
Your opinion may differ from mine, and that is okay.
Feel free to tell us your opinion and why in the comment section at the bottom of this post.
We value all comments and opinions.
Starting from #15, here are the best Army helicopters.
#15: Bell H-13 Sioux
These small observation and training helicopters were produced from 1946 through 1974.
They had many types used by various military units, but the ones used by the U.S. Army were designated the Sioux.
Many were designed with medical evacuation panniers.
The Sioux was a single engine helicopter with three seats.
It also had a full glass canopy.
It was used for observation at the start of the Vietnam War.
Enemy positions were located and radioed back.
#14: Sikorsky CH-37 Mojave
This heavy lift helicopter was used all through the Vietnam war.
Produced from 1956 to 1969, the Mojave was a two piston engine helicopter.
The landing gear was retractable and it could hold up to 26 troops.
These helicopters were used quite successfully in retrieving aircraft that had been shot down in Vietnam.
The tail rotor would fold and the main rotor blades too to make storing easy.
Many depictions of the Mojave are shown with troops jumping from or in as these heavy copters hovered.
They have since been retired.
#13: Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout
In today’s technology, why not list a military helicopter that has no pilot on board?
Introduced in 2009, the Fire Scout is primarily used by the United States Navy, but the Army is jumping on this technology too.
This is essentially a drone that uses helicopter technology.
It is designed to give ground troops awareness and can also provide fire support.
As time moves forward, I believe we will see the Army using more of these unmanned helicopters.
Maybe they will even be used by corporations.
#12: Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe
The Tarhe was produced from 1964 to 1991.
Tarhe stands for crane, and that is exactly what the CH-54 is.
These cool looking helicopters could lift nearly anything.
The dual engines and the unique design allowed this helicopter to get loads in the most stable locations for quick and safe flight and deliverance.
Even though these helicopters have been retired from Army service, many companies still use them to move heavy equipment from one location to another.
They were the workhorse in the skies.
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#11: Sikorsky H-34 SeaHorse
These helicopters were manufactured from 1954 to 1973.
They were first ordered by the United States Navy and used for anti-submarine warfare.
The U.S. Army found great use for these piston engine helicopters.
These helicopters were used in a variety of circumstances, and they even carried some U.S. Presidents.
Such a well-built piece of machinery, many U.S. allies also used the SeaHorses in their armed aviation forces.
#10: Hughes OH-6 Cayuse
There was a competition in 1960 to develop a versatile light observation helicopter.
Hughes won that competition with this great whirly-bird.
Still used by the U.S. Army, production of the Cayuse ramped up in 1966.
Army personnel nicknamed the Cayuse LOACH with the Light Observation designation as part of the acronym.
The OH-6 has broke records for speed and endurance.
There was even a modified OH-6 that was super quiet and used by the CIA.
The Cayuse has been adapted for other uses by police and sheriff departments.
It is also used for training helicopter pilots.
#9: Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota
With a great design, the United States Army contracted with Eurocopter which is now Airbus to deliver these helicopters.
They take both roles of light utility and can also be used as attack helicopters.
They have been in production since 2006 and are being used in the war on drugs, as training helicopters and also medical evacuation.
It was discovered that the Lakota was prone to over-heating in desert conditions so they had more vents installed to defeat that problem.
Living here in Puerto Rico, I know the Army National Guard uses many of these helicopters, and I often see them buzzing in the skies above.
#8: MD Helicopters MH-6 Little Bird
These small helicopters have been used by the U.S. Army since 1980.
They were accepted as the primary Special Forces helicopter.
The Little Birds have been used in:
- Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada
- In Nicaragua to support the Contras
- Operation Prime Chance aiding ships in the Persian Gulf
- Operation Just Cause in Panama
- Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- and Operation Celestial Balance in Somalia
The Little Birds will be used in many more Special Forces operations I believe.
I look for Little Birds to put damage on the terror group ISIS.
#7: Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior
The Bell Kiowa has been in use since 1969, but the Warrior is the latest version and saw much service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The OH-58 is a light observation helicopter that has been armed to provide support for ground forces.
Some features of the Kiowa Warrior that make it so great are the mass mounted sights that can help target strikes.
It also has a unique wire protection system that allows low altitude flying without fear of wires entangling the blades or the landing gear.
While some manufacturers have tried to “beat” the Kiowa Warrior, they have been unsuccessful.
I believe these great helicopters will be used by the Army for many years longer.
#6: Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
Is it really a helicopter?
Some would say no.
I had to put this unique piece of airborne machinery on this list.
The U.S. Army only used them a short time, but the U.S. Marines and Air Force sill use them regularly.
The Osprey has the vertical takeoff and landing like a helicopter, but when he rotors tilt, it becomes a high speed turboprop airplane.
The Osprey is used for transport and medical evacuation and has been used since 2007.
Why doesn’t the U.S. Army use them anymore?
I believe it comes down to budget, as these are expensive aircraft to maintain.
Watch for more designs to come out of a similar nature.
#5: Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey)
Manufacturing of the UH-1 began in 1959.
Originally, it was deemed HU-1, hence the nickname Huey.
This helicopter was one of the most recognized in the Vietnam War.
There were 7,000+ Hueys deployed to Vietnam.
They were used to evacuate injured soldiers and to transport soldiers.
Some Hueys had guns installed, but the majority just had a door gunner.
The Army has retired the Hueys, but there are many Bell UH-1s used in civil service and other areas.
#4: Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk
Most people are familiar with the UH-60 from the movie Blackhawk Down.
Sikorsky aircraft have been making Blackhawks for the United States Army since 19
The Blackhawks are utility helicopters that have been adapted for a wide variety of uses from combat to transport and more.
Blackhawks have been purchased by many other countries.
They have been used in many conflicts including:
- The invasion of Grenada
- The invasion of Panama
- The Gulf War
- The assault of Mogadishu
- The Balkans
- And the death of Osama Bin Laden
#3: Bell AH-1 Cobra
I spoke about the Hueys in #5, and the Cobras are a member of the Huey family.
The Cobra was a fierce attack helicopter and used offensively all throughout Vietnam.
They have since been replaced, but Cobras still carry a sense of fear in any who had to face its devastating firepower.
Bell unleashed the Cobra in 1967 and even though the Army moved away, the U.S. Marines still employ Bell Cobras.
Many Army Cobras were donated to NATO allies, and others are used by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Cobras are great helicopters.
#2: Boeing CH-47 Chinook
The Chinook deserves this spot on this list, and came quite close to #1.
These monster helicopters look so massive that we wonder how they can fly.
With 2 engines and dual rotors, the Chinook is able to carry many troops, vehicles and supplies.
Put into service in 1962, the Chinook was far ahead of the rest.
This massive helicopter was faster than smaller utility and attack helicopters of its day.
The wide loading ramp can accept even some tanks.
Chinooks have been used in many conflicts and for humanitarian efforts.
Many Chinooks have been sold to other nations.
It will be quite difficult to design a helicopter that can do everything the Chinook is capable of doing.
#1: Boeing AH-64 Apache
The Apache has a proper name; Apache Indians were ferocious in their attacks, and the Apache attack helicopter is equally ferocious.
The Apache is what brought the retirement of the Cobra.
Able to hold much more firepower and extremely fast, the Apache has become the primary attack helicopter of the United States Army.
Apaches have been in production since 1984 starting with Hughes Aircraft and then McDonnell Douglas took over production with Boeing grabbing the Apache contract in 1997.
The first combat operations that used the Apache helicopter was Operation Just Cause in Panama.
They have been used in:
- Operation Desert Storm
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Anaconda
- and Operation Iraqi Freedom
Apaches are now being used by U.S. allies.
There have been some incidents with the Apaches but overall, they are the supreme helicopter.
Some may disagree, but I dare anyone to name a better and faster attack helicopter that can do all the Apache does.
That is my opinion of the top 15 U.S. Army helicopters of all time.
Helicopters are an important part of United States Army operations.
There are developments on a regular basis to make the current helicopters even better.
There is also a prototype helicopter in the works.
It is the Piasecki X-49 which is a twin engine, high speed helicopter.
We will watch to see if the Army begins using these super speed helicopters.
So what are your thoughts?
What is, or was your favorite Army helicopter?
We would especially like to hear from any Army pilots.
What were the pros and cons of these helicopters?
You can leave all comments, questions and opinions below.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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