types of us military helicopters
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16 Types Of Military Helicopters Used By US Military

U.S. military helicopters are among the most versatile weapons systems in the world.

They have an incredible history in the U.S. Armed Forces as even casual observers can recognize a Huey or Chinook.

U.S. military helicopters serve a variety of purposes both during times of war and peace.

For this reason, the various types of military helicopters used by the U.S. military range from transport and utility to helicopters designed to attack.

Learn more about the most common helicopters currently used by the U.S. military.

Related ArticleArmy Helicopter Pilot Requirements

Types of U.S. Military Helicopters

U.S. military helicopters have presented an enormous boost to the country since their inception in the 1930’s.

Helicopters were first introduced to the military (along with many other aircraft) during World War II.

Later, U.S. military helicopters played a gigantic role in numerous foreign conflicts, including the invasion of Vietnam.

U.S. military helicopters are among the most revered for their incredible adaptability.

The rotors on helicopters enable military personnel to land and take-off just about anywhere.

Moreover, military helicopters exceed many other types of military aircraft in that they can hover or fly in all 4 directions.

In general, the U.S. Armed Forces relies on 7 different types of military helicopters:

  • Military Attack Helicopters
  • Military Transport Helicopters
  • Observational Helicopters
  • Military Utility Helicopters
  • Maritime Military Helicopters
  • Multi-Purpose Helicopters
  • Military Search and Rescue Helicopters

The various types of U.S. military helicopters are utilized for different purposes.

Below, we’ll examine 16 of the most prominent types of U.S. military helicopters.

#1. AH-1W Super Cobra

ah-1w super cobra military helicopter
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 182 mph (293 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Capacity: 2 crew (pilot and co-pilot/gunner)
  • First Flight: 1975
  • Manufacturer: Boeing
  • Rotor: 4-bladed main-rotor and 4-bladed tail-rotor
  • Type: Military Attack Helicopter

The Super Cobra is among a fleet of military helicopters typically referred to as “attack helicopters”.

Like the name implies, the primary purpose of these U.S. military helicopters is to assault the enemy.

Thus, military attack helicopters like the AH-1W Super Cobra strike at high speeds with a well supplied arsenal.

The Super Cobra is supplied with machines guns, missiles, and auto-cannons to attack the opposition.

Even more noteworthy, the AH-1W Super Cobra is modeled after the Huey design (more details, below).

For this reason, it’s the first attack helicopter used by the U.S. military to feature sidearm anti-radiation missile as well as sidewinder air-to-air missile combat.

Moreover, the Super Cobra can support hellfire missiles making it a dangerous foe in the era of drones.

The AH-1W Super Cobra was first introduced in 1967 and deployed heavily during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Today, the Super Cobra serves as the primary attack helicopter for the USMC air-ground task force.

Nevertheless, the Cobra is slowly getting replaced by the AH-1Z Viper (more information, below).

Related Article12 Military Drones Employed By The US Military

#2. CH-47 Chinook

ch-47 chinook helicopter
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 196 mph (315 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army
  • Crew: 3 (pilot, copilot, flight engineer or load master)
  • Capacity: 33-55 troops / 24,000 lbs.
  • First Flight: 1962
  • Manufacturer: Boeing
  • Rotor: Tandem
  • Type: Transport Helicopter

The Chinook ranks among the most recognizable of the U.S. military helicopters and for good reason.

For starters, the massive helicopter is easy to identify from the ground.

Secondly, the enormous twin-engine (developed by Boeing) roars with its deadly tandem rotors.

The tremendous size of the aircraft makes the CH-47 Chinook ideal as a transport helicopter.

The U.S. relies heavily on military transport helicopters to move cargo over large distances, including oceans.

U.S. military helicopters that are designed for transport are capable of handling light vehicles, large groups of troops, and cargo in high altitudes – and over incredible distances.

The Chinook made its debut during Vietnam and was instrumental in delivering supplies to troops deep in the jungle.

What makes military transport helicopters vital (over other types of transport aircraft) is the ability to land or takeoff without a landing strip.

The CH-47 Chinook features an impressive legacy.

The transport giant has went through several upgrades and is not expected to retire from duty until 2060.

It’s a legendary benchmark considering the Chinook will therefore become the first aircraft in the U.S. Army to reach 100 years.

Currently, the Chinook is undergoing some new designs yet remains crucial to U.S. Army supply routes.

The Block 2 Chinook (a second iteration of the CH-47 F-model and CH-47 G-model) currently serves the U.S. Army.

Related ArticleArmy CH-47 Helicopter Repairer (MOS 15U): Career Details

#3. CH-53E Super Stallion

CH-53E Super Stallion is a type of military helicopter used by the US Navy
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 200 mph (310 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy
  • Crew: 5 (2 pilots, 1 crew chief/right gunner, 1 left gunner, 1 tail gunner)
  • Capacity: 37-55 troops / 36,000 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 5
  • First Flight: 1974
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Rotor: 4
  • Type: Military Transport Helicopter

The CH-53E Super Stallion is another powerhouse that serves the U.S. Armed Forces as a transport helicopter.

The Super Stallion is far more common during peacetime operations compared to the Chinook (which is ideal serving combat operations).

Thus, it’s common to discover the CH-53E Super Stallion on television landing as foreign and military dignitaries meet to forge international relations.

The transport capacity of the Super Stallion is nothing short of amazing.

It’s witnessed with the 7-bladed main rotor that features the ability to carry 73.5K lbs of cargo.

There is anticipation that the U.S. Marine Corps will continue to depend on the Super Stallion throughout the 2020’s.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that many other countries in the world trust the CH-53E Super Stallion to serve them during international military exercises.

Related ArticleNavy Pilot Requirements

#4. MH-6 Little Bird

MH-6 Little Bird military helicopter
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 175 mph (282 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army
  • Crew: Unmanned
  • Capacity: 6 Passengers
  • First Flight: 1963
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
  • Rotor: Single, 5-blade
  • Type: Military Observation Helicopter

The MH-6 Little Bird is what the Armed Forces defines as an observation helicopter.

Observation helicopters provide a unique service to the U.S. military.

For example, the systems generally feature sensor and communication equipment that supports intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance missions.

Thus, the purpose of observation helicopters is to remain discreet while presenting high-tech and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

As a result, you’ll generally find helicopters like the MH-6 Little Bird equipped with advanced sensor suites, infrared cameras, communications equipment, and laser systems.

The MH-6 Little Bird is legendary in many aspects from being unmanned to being able to self-destruct, picked up by a transport aircraft, and rapidly rebuilt again.

“The Killer Egg”, or what some affectionately call the Little Bird, also features fuel tanks that are resistant to small arms.

The Little Bird first became iconic in the film “Black Hawk Down” and carries a special reputation within the U.S. Army.

In fact, the MH-6M Little Bird is almost exclusively used by the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

The purpose of these aviation experts is to deposit troops, or “night stalkers” into very narrow spaces, and often in the dark.

#5. OH-58 Kiowa Warrior

OH-58 Kiowa Warrior
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 149 mph (240 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army
  • Crew: 2 Pilots
  • First Flight: 1969
  • Manufacturer: Bell
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade
  • Type: Observation Helicopter

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior is another integral design of U.S. military helicopters.

The Kiowa is considered a stealth reconnaissance helicopter that is utilized by several different forces worldwide.

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior is a single-engine, 4-blade helicopter that also features advanced weapons and navigation systems.

Consequently, the Kiowa is capable of launching assaults both day and night.

Moreover, the Kiowa Warrior can handle just about anything including adverse weather and standoffs.

The U.S. Army currently utilizes the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior for various operations.

It’s popular among the branch for ability to deploy minutes after arrival.

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was introduced in 1969 and crucial during the Vietnam War as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Related ArticleHigh School To Flight School

#6. UH-60 Black Hawk

UH-60 Black Hawk is a popular type of military helicopter
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 183 mph (294 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army
  • Crew: 4 (2 pilots and 2 crew chiefs/gunners)
  • Capacity: 11 troops / 3,190 lbs.
  • First Flight: 1974
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Rotor: 4-blade
  • Type: Military Utility Helicopter

The UH-60 Black Hawk is defined by the military as a utility helicopter.

In other words, utility helicopters serve the military in various functions because they are extraordinarily versatile.

Thus, a utility helicopter is capable of surviving an assault or providing reconnaissance.

It’s why the Black Hawk ranks among the most well known military helicopters.

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a twin-engine, 4-blade helicopter that currently serves the U.S. Army.

You can generally spot it from the ground due to the dragging tail with the landing gear system.

The tactical military helicopter is designed to operate in all-weather conditions, including arctic environments.

Of course, the U.S. military helicopter first became idolized by the general public after the release of the film “Black Hawk Down” in 2001.

Today, numerous variants of the UH-60 Black Hawk exist in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Related ArticleArmy UH-60 Helicopter Repairer (MOS 15T): Career Details

#7. AH-1Z Viper

AH-1Z Viper
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 180 mph (300 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Crew: 2 (pilot and co-pilot/gunner)
  • First Flight: 2000
  • Manufacturer: Bell
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade
  • Type: Military Attack Helicopter

The AH-1Z Viper is set to replace the legendary Super Cobra as the primary attack helicopter for the U.S. military.

The impressive AH-1Z Viper is equipped with advanced radar that identifies enemy targets.

Additionally, the advanced military helicopter can guide projectiles worthy of destroying vehicles or tanks.

The U.S. Military relies on the lethal helicopter to provide air support for ground support and other aircraft.

The Viper is young among the list of U.S. military helicopters as it wasn’t formally introduced until 2010.

#8. UH-1Y Venom

UH-1Y Venom military helicopter
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 189 mph (304 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Crew: 2 (pilot and co-pilot)
  • Capacity: 10 troops / 6,660 lbs.
  • First Flight: 2001
  • Manufacturer: Bell
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade
  • Type: Military Utility Helicopter

The UH-1Y Venom carries a reputation of being able to survive enormous obstacles.

The utility helicopter is destine to replace the iconic Huey after being introduced in 2008.

As a result, the UH-1Y Venom has been granted the nicknames “Super Huey” and “Yankee”.

The Super Huey presents a 50% increase in speed and range compared to the original Huey military helicopter.

Lastly, the Venom is also equipped to endure an attack giving it a lot of versatility.

Related ArticleUSMC 61 Field (Helicopter Maintenance/Mechanic)

#9. UH-1 Iroquois (“The Huey”)

UH-1 Iroquois aka huey
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 127 mph (204 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army
  • Crew: 1-4
  • Capacity: 11-14 troops /3,880 lbs.
  • First Flight: 1956
  • Manufacturer: Bell
  • Rotor: Single, 2-blade
  • Type: Utility Helicopter

The Iroquois, usually better known by its nickname “The Huey”, serves as a utility helicopter for the Armed Forces.

It attained legendary status saving the lives of many soldiers that were critically injured in Vietnam.

The ability for the single-engine, light-lift helicopter to land in combat zones was essential in rescue operations.

Thus, the U.S. military had finally found a solution for providing medical evacuations (even during combat).

The UH-1 Iroquis Huey is capable of flying in day and night conditions.

It has been in production since the 1960’s and was turned over to the U.S. Air Force in the 1970’s.

In response, the Air Force has utilized the Huey for a variety of missions including counter-narcotics operations.

Even more, the Huey has become highly valued by Armed Forces throughout the world that admire U.S. military helicopter design.

The Huey was the first turbine-engine aircraft the military produced and continues to remain in a limited circulation.

#10. MH-60R Seahawk

MH-60R Seahawk is a type of military helicopter used by the US Navy
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 168 mph (270 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Navy
  • Crew: 3-4
  • Capacity: 5 / 6,000 lbs.
  • First Flight: 1979
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade (with tail fin)
  • Type: Maritime Helicopter

The MH-60R Seahawk is what the U.S. Armed Forces consider a maritime helicopter.

Maritime helicopters, like the name implies, primary serve units that are stationed out in large bodies of water.

The U.S. Navy first developed maritime helicopters as a resource for search and rescue and surveillance.

However, maritime helicopters are also capable of providing air support and anti-submarine warfare.

The most popular maritime helicopter is the MH-60R Seahawk.

The Seahawk (also affectionately known as “Romeo”) serves the U.S. Navy in multiple capacities.

It’s a multi-mission helicopter that can provide air support against submarines as well as any surface weapon system.

The U.S. Navy still heavily relies on the MH-60R Seahawk to deliver the support and protection it needs.

#11. MH-65 Dolphin

MH-65 Dolphin is a type of military helicopter used by the US Coast Guard
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 210 mph (180 kn)
  • Branch: U.S. Coast Guard
  • Capacity: 2-4 (Pilots & Crew)
  • First Flight: 1980
  • Manufacturer: American Eurocopter
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade (with tail fin)
  • Type: Military Search & Rescue Helicopters

The MH-65 Dolphin is crucial to the U.S. Coast Guard during search and rescue operations.

Search and rescue helicopters are traditionally very swift and agile.

Moreover, search and rescue helicopters usually handle all-weather environments and navigate challenging terrain.

The U.S. Coast Guard trusts the MH-65 Dolphin to provide search and rescue support over both the Pacific and Atlantic.

You’ll easily spot the two-engine, short-range recovery helicopter from the vibrant orange design.

The orange and white serves a purpose, however, as it allows the Coast Guard to conduct operations day and night.

The Dolphin military helicopter recently underwent several important upgrades including more advanced radar and avionics.

It continues to remain a stalwart among U.S. military helicopters as the primary search and rescue helicopter for the USCG.

#12. AH-64 Apache

AH-64 Apache is an attack helicopter used by the US Army
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 182 mph (293 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army
  • Capacity: 2 (pilot and co-pilot/gunner)
  • First Flight: 1975
  • Manufacturer: Boeing
  • Rotor: 2 (4-blade main and rear rotor)
  • Type: Military Attack / Utility Helicopter

The Apache is a really versatile, underrated U.S. military helicopter.

It’s capable of supporting a wide range of operations and therefore several branches rely on its services.

The AH-64 Apache is fantastic in navigating difficult terrain and confined spaces.

It serves a lot of search and rescue missions as well as medivac and recovery operations.

The best way to identify the AH-64 Apache is the dual rotors and thunderous roar (thanks to the twin-engine).

There are several advanced features onboard the Apache including sensor suites, avionics, and navigation.

The other distinguishing features of the U.S. military helicopter includes shields between cockpits and night-vision system.

Lastly, the Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS) allows the pilot or gunner to aim the automatic M230 Chain Gun depending on where they look.

If that is not enough, the enemy will surely avoid the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rockets.

Related ArticleArmy AH-64 Attack Helicopter Repairer (MOS 15R): Career Details

#13. UH-72A Lakota

UH-72A Lakota is a military helicopter used by the US Army and US Navy
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 153 mph (246 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Army, U.S. Navy
  • Crew: 1-2
  • Capacity: 9 troops / 3,953 lbs.
  • First Flight: 2006
  • Manufacturer: Eurocopter
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade
  • Type: Military Utility Helicopter

The UH-72A Lakota is scheduled to relieve the notorious Black Hawk from duty.

While it will be hard to say goodbye to a legend, the Lakota is impressive in many regards.

First, the multi-purpose helicopter is already utilized in U.S. Army training procedures.

The UH-72A Lakota offers a twin-engine and single, 4-blade main rotor.

Meanwhile, a single 2-blade tail rotor provides additional support for the light-duty helicopter.

For now, the UH-72A Lakota is primarily used by the U.S. Army National Guard until it replaces the Black Hawk.

It’s very important to medivac missions at the U.S. Army National Training Center (Forth Irwin, CA).

#14. MH-60 Jayhawk

MH-60 Jayhawk is a military helicopter used by the US Coast Guard
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed:  205 mph (333 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Coast Guard
  • Crew: 4 ((pilot, co-pilot, two flight crew))
  • First Flight: 1989
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade
  • Type: Military Multi-Purpose Helicopter

The MH-60 Jayhawk is a personal favorite among many that serve the U.S. Coast Guard.

The multi-purpose helicopter features two engines and drew inspiration from the design of the U.S. Army Black Hawk.

Be that as it may, the U.S. Coast Guard primarily utilizes the Jayhawk for search and rescue missions.

Thus, the sight of an approaching Jayhawk can quickly become your best friend if you find yourself stranded at sea.

The MH-60 Jayhawk is capable of flying in all-weather conditions and over difficult terrain.

Often, law enforcement and maritime drug operations rely on the support of the Jayhawk helicopter.

The MH-60 Jayhawk was also crucial to Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Related ArticleCoast Guard Rescue Swimmer: Pay, School, Training, And More

#15. V-22 Osprey

V-22 Osprey helicopter
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 316 mph (509 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force
  • Crew: 4 (pilot, co-pilot, and 1-2 flight engineers/crew chiefs/gunners)
  • Capacity: 24-32 troops / 20,000 lbs.
  • First Flight: 1989
  • Manufacturer: Bell
  • Rotor: Tiltrotor
  • Type: Military Multi-Purpose Helicopter / Helicopter

The V-22 Osprey is another honorable mention among the list of U.S. military helicopters..

The multi-purpose aircraft is generally needed during special operations in combat zones.


The V-22 Osprey is very unique because it takes off and lands like an helicopter.

However, the Osprey quickly transforms into a turbo-prop airplane once in the air while a tilt rotor motors the flight.

For this reason, the V-22 Osprey is easily one of the most unique helicopters in the U.S. military.

Currently, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) depends on a variety of Osprey designs to conduct operations.

The versatile military helicopter can handle everything from transportation to medivac.

#16. SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King military helicopter used by the US Navy
Image: Wikipedia.org
  • Airspeed: 166 mph (267 km/h)
  • Branch: U.S. Navy
  • Crew: 4 (2 flight crew and 2 sonar operators)
  • Capacity: 26 troops
  • First Flight: 1959
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Rotor: Single, 4-blade (with tail fin)
  • Type: Military Transportation Helicopter

The SH-3 Sea King carries the distinction of transporting the President of the United States.

The twin-engine helicopter was manufactured by Sikorsky – which produced many of the other U.S. military helicopters.

Sikorsky is well known for their production standards and dependability.

Thus, it’s little surprise that the Leader of the Free World turns to the Sea King for transportation.

The SH-3 Sea King features a boat-like frame and pontoons that allow the aircraft to land on water.

For this reason, its often considered the first “amphibious” helicopter in the world.

Before the Sea King got into the hands of the U.S. President – it was previously in the service of the U.S. Navy for a half-century.

Rob V.
US Military Helicopters

US Military Helicopters

4.4 out of 5 (33 Ratings)

The various types of U.S. military helicopters allow the Armed Forces to conduct a wide range of missions from transport to reconnaissance.
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