The introduction of helicopters into the United States military between the 1940 and 1950s changed military doctrine heavily. The ability to move troops, supplies, and fire support around the battlespace has increased in application and scope as technology has advanced throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. In today’s military, helicopters play a large role for the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard due to the flexibility and unique capabilities these aircraft provide.
Below are the top seven amazing helicopters utilized in the U.S. military arsenal.
#1 UH-1 Huey
Introduced in 1956, the Huey was a simple design intended to transport roughly a squad of infantry forces during Vietnam to support the United States Army’s new doctrine of vertical envelopment. Fleets of Hueys would soon fill the sky over Vietnam and were utilized to transport ammunition, evacuate wounded, and support forward operating bases throughout the jungles of Vietnam. It had the ability to carry fixed rocket pods and M-60 door gunners. The United States Marine Corps still utilizes an upgraded version of this aircraft.
#2 CH-47 Chinook
Introduced in 1961, also during the Vietnam War, the CH-47 is an immediately distinguishable airframe due to the placement of its two rotors. The Ch-47 has the ability to carry large payloads to high altitudes and has been the workhorse for the US military for years. It has the option to carry over 10,000 kilograms internal, over 8,000 kilograms slung external, or a troop capacity of 55 personnel.
#3 CH-53 Sea Stallion
The CH-53 was built in 1964 and is the largest helicopter in the US inventory. It has a larger capacity than the CH-47 and is primarily used by the United States Marine Corps and other Special Force units. This platform is primarily utilized in maritime environments, possessing the ability to refuel from a fixed-wing refueling aircraft or other helicopters, as well as land aboard various amphibious ships at sea.
#4 AH-1 Cobra
Built in 1965 to meet the demands of a desperately needed attack helicopter in Vietnam, the AH-1 became the first dedicated attack helicopter for the US. It is operated by two pilots, possesses the ability to employ rockets, a cannon, and various other air-to-ground missiles like Hellfire missiles.
#5 UH-60 Blackhawk
The Blackhawk is the iconic helicopter of the United States, due to its large role in moving troops on the battlefield in real-life scenarios, as well as its role in many favorite military movies. The UH-60 has different variants, like the SH-60 used by the Navy for various naval roles, but is still extensively used by the Army for casualty evacuation and troop transportation across the battlefield.
#6 AH-64 Apache
The Apache is an extremely capable attack helicopter utilized by the U.S. Army for close air support. It is fully equipped with a vast array of technologically advanced sensors, optics, and missiles to locate, detect, and destroy any adversarial forces. It carries a massive payload of weapons that makes this helicopter extremely lethal on the battlefield.
#7 MV-22 Osprey
Introduced in 1989 and later fully integrated into the Marine Corps in the early 2000s, the V22 Osprey was the first tiltrotor helicopter of its kind. The V22 is an extremely flexible platform that allows up to 21 fully loaded Marines or soldiers to load a helicopter and then once airborne, transition to a more traditional airplane that can travel faster and farther than a traditional helicopter. The V22 Osprey is truly the best of both worlds. The V22 is primarily used by the Marine Corps, but the US Navy and Air Force do employ the Osprey in limited capacities as well.
All in all, the United States military possesses a dynamic and versatile arsenal of military helicopters that provide unique capabilities across the full spectrum, from troop transport, amphibious assault support, close air support, and long-range movements.