Helicopters have been conceptualized more than 500 years ago. There is a sketch made by 1486 Leonardo da Vinci, in 1486, depicting a helicopter. However it took centuries to build a real working helicopter. In 1939 Igor Sikorsky designed and flew the first helicopter, called the VS-300. This helicopter was this first to incorporate a single main rotor and tail rotor design, like the modern helicopters. Helicopters were used initially for military purposes, for reconnaissance, and carrying wounded soldiers. Since then, helicopters have been used as gunships and for attacks. Helicopters have the advantage of not requiring a runway, which made them very versatile and useful.
There have been continuous attempts to make faster helicopters with powerful engines. The helicopter engines are rated, not on BHP or brake horse power; but on SHP or Shaft horse Power. The ideal engines must have a good weight-to-power ratio. The race for better efficient engines and faster helicopters was required for military and defence advantage. The defence forces and army are the biggest users of helicopters. Helicopter manufacturers developed faster and versatile multi-use helicopters for military use. This is the reason that that most of the fastest helicopter in the world are military helicopters. There are certain civil and commercial use helicopters which have high speed and many are civilian versions of the military helicopters.
The Top 12 Fastest Helicopters are
Here is a list of the Top 12 fastest helicopters in the world. A few which have only been made for demonstration or trial and were not put in to production, have not been included in this list.
12. AH-64D Apache; Speed: 284 kmph/177 mph/158 knots
The AH-64D Apache can attain a maximum speed of 284 kmph. The Boeing AH-64 Apache is manufactured by Boeing Defense, Space & Security Company in US. It is the most advanced multi-role combat helicopter for the U.S. Army. It is a four-blade, twin-turbo-shaft engine, attack helicopter. It comes with a tail-wheel-type landing gear arrangement. It has tandem twin cockpit for a two-man crew.
The apache is equipped with a nose-mounted set of sensors for target acquisition and night vision systems. The high-performance twin engines deliver a maximum power of 1,890 hp each. It has been acquired by many countries in the world, including Greece, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, UAE and Israel. It can operate up to a maximum altitude of 4,845 meters (15,895 ft).
11. Mil Mi-26 (Halo); Speed: 295 kmph/183 mph/159 knots
Mil Mi-26 has a maximum flying speed of up to 295 kmph. Its speed is remarkable considering its size and power, as it can lift even an aeroplane. It is a heavy lift transport helicopter manufactured by Rosvertol aviation plant in Russia. It is the largest and most powerful helicopter in the world. It can be used for both military and civil requirements.
It can reach up to a height of 4,600 meters (15,091ft) above sea level. It has two D-136 turbo-shaft engines with a power output of 11,400 hp each. It has a flight range of 800 km.
10. Mi-28N Night Hunter; Speed: 300 kmph/186mph/162knots
This Russian helicopter can fly at a maximum speed of 300 kmph and ties in speed with the NH90 and Ka-52 Alligator helicopters. Mi-28N Night Hunter is a day-night, tandem two-seater, anti-armor attack helicopter. It is designed to carry out search and destroy operations against tanks, armoured and un-armoured vehicles, as well as low-speed airborne targets. It has two VK-2500 engines with a power output of 2,200 hp each.
It is equipped with two heavily armored cockpits, new main gearbox for transmitting higher power to rotor, high-efficiency blades with swept-shaped tips and engine fuel injection control. It has also been purchased by many other countries. It has an operational ceiling of 5,600 meters altitude.
9. Ka-52 Alligator; Speed: 300 kmph/186mph/162knots
Ka-52 Alligator can fly at a maximum speed of 300 kmph. The Ka-52 Alligator is an advanced version of Ka-50. It is the next-generation reconnaissance and combat helicopter developed by Kamov Design Bureau. It is designed to meet the demands of reconnaissance and combat missions for the Russian Air Force. It can destroy tanks, armoured and non-armoured ground targets, and enemy troops and helicopters. It has a long and softer nose profile and a radar system with two antennas, the mast-mounted for aerial targets and nose-mounted for ground targets.
The six wing-mounted blades helicopter was commissioned in 2012, to the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. The two-seater Russian attack helicopter is powered by two VK-2500 turbo-shaft engines delivering 2,400 hp each. It can fly at altitudes up to 5,000m (16,404ft), can take-off and land in hot and high as well as in extremely cold and icy weather conditions.
8. NH90; Speed: 300 kmph/186mph/162knots
NH90 has a speed of 300 kmph. It is a medium-sized twin-engine multi-role military helicopter. NH90 is manufactured by NH Industries, a consortium of Airbus Helicopters, AgustaWestland and Fokker Aerostructures. It was developed in 1995, to fulfil NATO requirements for an advanced multi-role helicopter which can be deployed in battlefield and also suit naval environments. It has two versions – Tactical Troop Transport (TTH) and NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH). The NH90 is well suited for day and night operations in the most demanding conditions over land and sea.
It has been acquired by more than 13 countries including Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, New Zealand and Spain among others. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500ft).
7. AgustaWestland AW139; Speed: 306 kmph/190mph/165 knots
The AW139 has a maximum speed of 306 kmph, which puts it among the top sevem fastest helicopter in the world. It is a medium sized, new generation twin-turbine military helicopter developed and manufactured by AgustaWestland. It can carry up to 15 passengers. This version has been developed further into AW149 for military use and AW189 for civil aviation.
It is powered by two Pratt and Whitney turbo-shaft engines. It has been purchased by many countries including Bangladesh, Cyprus, Egypt, Malta, Nigeria, Panama, UAE and UK. It has a service ceiling of 6,096 meters, and a range of 1,250km.
6. AgustaWestland AW101 (EH101) Merlin; Speed: 309 kmph/192 mph/166 knots
The AW101 Merlin is a flexible medium-lift helicopter which can fly at a maximum speed of 309 km/h. It is designed, developed and manufactured by Agusta of Italy and Westland Helicopters of UK. It can be used for both civil and military operations. It can carry a load of 14,500 kgs.
It is powered by three Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 turbo-shaft engines, each of which provides a power of 2,270 bhp. It is used by several countries like Algeria, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Portugal, Norway and Saudi Arabia, apart from UK and US, for military and law enforcement operations.
5. Mi-35 Ml; Speed: 310 kmph/193 mph/167 knots
Mi-35M has a maximum speed of 310 km/h, which makes it the fifth fastest helicopter in the world. It is an advanced version of Mi-24. In its versatility, it is considered the AK-47 among helicopters! It is a multi-role combat helicopter manufactured since 2005 by Rostvertol, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters. It can be used as an attack gunship and also for military transport with superior flight performance and manoeuvrability. It has an operational ceiling up to an altitude of 5,400 meters (17,717 ft), above sea level.
It has two engines which belch out a power output of 2200 hp each. It is capable of day and night mission and can operate from unprepared and inadequately equipped airfields at high-temperature and high-altitude environments. Its earlier versions were manufactured in 1969. And it was in operation with the Soviet Army since 1972. It is used by the armies of more than 30 countries.
4. CH-47 Chinook; Speed: 315 kmph/196 mph/170 knots
CH-47 Chinook is one of fastest helicopter in the world with maximum speed of 315 kmph. It has an operational ceiling up to n altitude of 6,906 meters or 20,000 feet above sea level. It can carry weight up to 10,886 kg./22, 680 lbs. which makes it a top heavy-lift helicopter. It is manufactured by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, and has several variants with different customized specifications. It has twin-engine tandem rotors, which means two rotor sets of blades placed one after the other. It is a heavy-lift helicopter; which can perform both civil and military role. The CH-47 is powered by two Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines generating 4,777 hp (3,529kW) of power each.
The production of earliest versions of Chinook started way back in 1960, and higher versions have been in production since then. It has been inducted in the US army in 1961. It has been acquired by 16 or more countries like Argentina, Australia, Canada, Greece, Japan, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain etc. apart from being used by US and UK.
3. Bell AH-1Z Viper; Speed: 411 kmph/255 mph/222 knots
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is an American twin-engine attack helicopter that has a top speed of 411 kmph. It is based on and developed from the AH-1W SuperCobra, which was developed for the United States Marine Corps. It was a part of the H-1 upgrade program. it is manufactured by Bell Helicopters.
The AH-1Z has a four-blade, bearing-less, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system. It is one of the latest members of the prolific Huey family of helicopters. It is also called “Zulu Cobra”. It has a range of 685 km.
2. Sikorsky X2; Speed: 460 kmph/290 mph/250 knots
The Sikorsky X2 flew at a speed of 250 knots (290 mph; 460 km/h) on15 September 2010, making it the fastest helicopter after X3. The Sikorsky X2 is an experimental high-speed compound helicopter with coaxial rotors developed by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. The Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation was awarded the 2010 Robert J. Collier Trophy by the National Aeronautic Association for demonstrating a revolutionary 250 knot helicopter.
It has a cockpit for crew of two. It uses two four-bladed co-axial rotors placed in a stack one over the other. It has a six-bladed pusher-type propeller. It is powered by a single LHTEC T800-LHT-801 turbo-shaft engine with a power output of 1800 hp. It has a range of 1300 km.
X2 is designed for a top speed of 481 kmph. The X2 development has resulted in the S-97 Raider high-speed scout and attack helicopter. There is another version of X2 without a tail propeller called S-69. Only one unit of each has been manufactured for testing and demonstration.
1. Eurocopter X3; Speed: 472 kmph/293 mph/255 knots
Eurocopter X3 is the fastest helicopter in the world today. Eurocopter X³ (X-Cubed) is an experimental high-speed ‘compound’ helicopter which flies at an astonishing speed of 472 kmph, on 7 June 2013 in France, which is a world helicopter speed record. It has a service ceiling up to an altitude of 3,810 meters above sea level. It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01/9a turboshaft engines, each of which generates 1,693 kW (2,270 hp) of power. The two five-bladed propellers, on both sides are gear driven from the two main turbo-shaft engines.
This futuristic helicopter has been developed and produced by Eurocopter as a part of its “High-speed, long-range Hybrid Helicopter” or H³ concept. Eurocopter is a subsidiary of Airbus Industries, which owns the patent of the futuristic helicopter. It has not yet been made operational, as it is still in its developmental and trial stage.
Helicopter will always remain the mainstay of army in the day to come. The technology and warfare is changing. Just as cavalry has given way to tank regiments; the helicopter also is proving to be a reliable and powerful warhorse. Its ability and versatility at low altitudes as well as 5.000 meters height of mountain tops makes it a real mean machine. The developments will also help civil aviation. Helicopters are now routinely and extensively used to ferry passengers at high altitude. They have also proved invaluable in saving lives of people and are increasingly being used as air ambulance. During natural calamities like floods, earthquakes etc. helicopters become the flying angels for humanity.
Compiled and Written by : Raj Kumar Hansdah