Helicopters are relatively modern marvels of flying machines. At least compared to other classic vehicles like ships and even tanks. The first helicopter took to the skies in the 1920s, technology has progressed a lot since then. There has been all manner of choppers gracing the air above our head since.

We're rounding up some of the most interesting helicopters to ever lift off into the sky. From the magnificent flying machines to dangerous death dealers.

Staff Sgt. Richard WrigleyBest helicopters and attack choppers of all time image 2

The Black Hawk

  • In production/use: 1974 to present
  • Estimated cost: $21.3 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
  • Crew: 4 total - 2 pilots and 2 gunners
  • Max speed: 183mph
  • Main armament: 2 × 7.62 mm M240 machine guns, M134 miniguns or GAU-19 Gatling guns

Is there any more iconic or well-known military helicopter than the Black Hawk? This is a four-blade, twin-engined, medium-lift utility helicopter that's been in service around the world since 1979. It's most well-known for being heavily used by the United States, but has also been used by other military forces including serving Japan, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and more. 

You might know the Black Hawk from seeing it in action or on the big screen in 2001's Black Hawk Down or from being involved in the takedown of Osama Bin Laden. But did you know that this chopper is named after a Native American warrior? Weirdly the name was inspired by Black Hawk, a warrior of the Sauk American Indian tribe - who once fought with the British against the American settlers during the war of 1812. 

The Black Hawk entered service to replace the Huey - another iconic American chopper - as a more technologically advanced tactical transport craft. Since taking the skies, the Black Hawk has been used for everything from mine laying to medical evacuation and general troop transport. 

Nicky BoogaardBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 3

The Apache

  • In production/use: 1975 to present
  • Estimated cost: $20-35 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: Boeing AH-64 Apache
  • Crew: 2 (pilot and gunner)
  • Max speed: 182mph
  • Main armament: 1× 30 mm M230 Chain Gun,  Hydra 70 70 mm, CRV7 70 m, and APKWS 70 mm air-to-ground rockets, Hellfire, Stinger and Spike missiles

The AH-64 Apache is one of the most dangerous helicopters ever to lift off. Since its first flight in 1975, this helicopter has served in multiple theatres and for several different nations. It's a real powerhouse of an attack helicopter too. The Apache packs two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines (or Rolls-Royce engines in the British variant) that are capable of as much as 1,994 shp - meaning it can climb at a rate of  1,775 feet per minute and fly at a maximum speed of 182mph.

But what makes the Apache interesting is its design and various revolutionary features. Firstly, this helicopter carries two crew members and either of the crew can fly or man the weapons at any point. This is key as the craft is designed with shielding between the cockpits to ensure that if one of the crew is killed, the other can survive to carry on flying. 

The Apache also uses an intelligent helmet-mounted display system that tracks the chopper's 30 mm M230 Chain Gun, slaving it to the gunner's helmet. In short, the gun goes where the gunner is looking. Making it intuitive to use and enhancing crew performance. It also packs some serious weaponry in the form of deadly Hellfire anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles and more. Recent variants have even been given the ability to control unmanned aerial vehicles or make use of so-called "direct energy weapons". Yes, the lastest Apache's pack laser guns that can be used to destroy enemy UAVs or communications equipment. 

The Chinook

  • In production/use: 1962 to present
  • Estimated cost: $38 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: Boeing CH-47 Chinook
  • Crew: 3 - pilot, co-pilot and engineer/loadmaster
  • Max speed: 196mph
  • Main armament: 3 x 7.62 mm M240/FN MAG machine guns

The Chinook is likely one of the easiest helicopters on our list to recognise due to its unusual tandem rotor design. It's also likely one of the longest-serving helicopters to grace the skies - having first taken off for first flight way back in 1961. Like other helicopters on this list, it's another to be named after a Native American people and also like a lot of the others it has served all around the globe. 

This helicopter is a heavy-lift aircraft, capable of carrying great loads while still maintaining high speeds. That was one factor that saw it introduced into service in the first place as it could outpace most other helicopters at the time and still is incredibly nippy even by today's standards. 

The Chinook is not only capable of carrying as many as 55 military personnel, but can also carry underslung cargo and has a maximum takeoff weight of 50,000lbs, which is impressive. This capability has also been transported into the civilian world where commercial models of the Chinook have been used for all sorts of activities from logging to fighting forest fires. In the military, this helicopter has seen action in Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, the Falklands and Afganistan. 

It's a real workhorse.  

Artem KatranzhiBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 5

The Havoc

  • In production/use: 1982 to present
  • Estimated cost: $16 million
  • Main army of service: Russia
  • Other names: Mil Mi-28
  • Crew: 2 - pilot and navigator/weapons operator
  • Max speed: 201mph
  • Main armament: 1× chin-mounted 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 cannon,  Ataka-V anti-tank missiles,  23 mm UPK-23-250 gun pods and more

The Mi-28 Havoc is Russia's answer to the American Apache. This bulbous looking chopper is an all-weather anti-armour attack helicopter with some serious firepower.  It's designed to be an attack partner to the tried and trusted Mi-24 Hind. Despite what looks like a bulky frame, this is not a chopper to underestimate. It's faster than the Apache and has some interesting design features of its own. 

For example, it's built with energy-absorbing landing gear and seats, meaning that the crew can survive a vertical fall in the event of a crash landing at 12 m/s. The cabin is also armoured and able to withstand 7.62mm and 12.7 mm armour piercing bullets and even 20 mm cannon shells in some instances.

The Havoc also has a small passenger compartment built into it for temporarily housing up to three people - ideal for rescue missions. This chopper also has a helmet-mounted display which allows the pilot to designate targets for the gunner to fire at. Firepower includes everything from High Explosive Incendiary and Armour-Piercing Discarding Sabot rounds to High Explosive Anti-Tank missiles and more.

PFC Gabriel Segura, U.S. ArmyBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 6

The Little Bird 

  • In production/use: 1963 to present
  • Estimated cost: $2 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: MH-6 Little Bird and "The Killer Egg"
  • Crew: 2
  • Max speed: 175mph
  • Main armament: 2 ×.50 BMG or 2 × 7.62×51mm NATO M134 Minigun, 2× LAU-68D/A 7-tubes rocket pods, 2× AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Stinger anti-air missiles 

The Little Bird, also weirdly known in some circles as "The Killer Egg" is a small light helicopter that's used for special operations missions. It's small, nimble and thoroughly capable. Despite its size, this little helicopter can carry two crew members and as many as six passengers. It can also fly up to 267 miles before needing to refuel and can reach a top speed of 175 mph. 

Because of its size, the Little Bird is the perfect vehicle for quickly inserting special forces teams (such as Army Rangers or Dela Force operators) into combat zones. It can also land to drop off or pick up teams in areas where larger helicopters like the Black Hawk cannot. 

The Little Bird has been involved in many campaigns over the years doing just this sort of operation. It has also been modified into several variants that include multiple weapon-wielding attack choppers and even an unmanned helicopter gunship version

Alan RadeckiBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 7

The Huey

  • In production/use: 1969 to present
  • Estimated cost: $26 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: Bell UH-1N Twin Huey
  • Crew: 4 - pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and gunner
  • Max speed: 135mph
  • Main armament: 70mm rocket pods, 0.50 in GAU-16 machine gun, 7.62 mm GAU-17 minigun or 7.62 mm M240 lightweight machine gun

There are a lot of different Huey helicopters but the UH-1N Twin Huey might be the most iconic and easy to recognise. It's also a very popular helicopter both in the US and Canadian forces as well as for various other nations around the world. 

The Huey is not just cool, it's also well built. The design, for example, includes two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboshaft engines that are built in such a way that if one engine fails, the other can still keep the aircraft in the air, even at maximum weight. 

This helicopter has proved so useful it's served for decades and is only recently being phased out and replaced by the upgraded and improved Venom (aka Super Huey).

SSgt. Angelita LawrenceBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 8

The Hind

  • In production/use: 1969 to present
  • Estimated cost: $36 million
  • Main army of service: Russia
  • Other names: Mil Mi-24 and "The Flying Tank"
  • Crew: 3 - pilot, gunner and technician
  • Max speed: 208mph
  • Main armament: 12.7 mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B Gatling gun, twin-barrel GSh-30K autocannon, bomb/mine dispensers, UB-32 S-5 rocket launchers and more

The Hind is essentially a flying fortress. A monster of a helicopter gunship that's not only fast, but also packs multiple different weapon systems that even includes window-mounted machine guns that can be fired by passengers aboard. 

It doubles as a small-capacity troop carrier, with enough room for up to eight passengers onboard. This monster of a machine was lovingly dubbed "The Flying Tank" by Soviet pilots who flew it back in the day. And for good reason too. The Mil Mi-24 Hind has a heavy-duty fuselage that is well armoured and resists impacts from 12.7 mm (0.50 in) rounds from any angle.  

The Hind is especially interesting because, despite its size and weight, it has an impressive top speed of 208 miles per hour. A modified version of the Hind also broke official speed records in 1975 showing just how capable the aircraft is.

The Americans had a hand in the improvements to the Hind over the years, both in its design upgrades and the military tactics employed using them. The country had supplied Afghan rebels with heat-seeking Stinger anti-air missiles that the Russians were then forced to counter. Upgrades followed including the fitting of countermeasure flares and missile warning systems to the Hind. Since then, the ageing Hind has been employed by numerous nations around the world in all manner of conflicts, including by Saddam Hussein's army in the Iraq wars. 

David Álvarez LópezBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 9

Eurocopter Tiger

  • In production/use: 1991 to present
  • Estimated cost: €27.4 - €36.1 million
  • Main army of service: Multi-national
  • Other names: Tiger/Tigre
  • Crew: 2 - pilot and weapon systems officer
  • Max speed: 196mph
  • Main armament: 1 × 30 mm GIAT 30 cannon in chin turret, 1 x 20 mm autocannon pod, Hydra, Spike, PARS or HOT3 missiles, Mistral or Stinger air-to-air missiles and more

The Eurocopter Tiger is interesting in many ways, not least of which is probably the fact that it's the youngest chopper on our list and only entered service properly in 2003. Development started during the Cold War but was delayed after the Soviet Union dissolved. 

This is a multi-role helicopter that's capable of handling all sorts of including surveillance, anti-tank and close air support missions. It can also fly at night and in all weather conditions. But more interestingly is the fact it's been designed to handle these missions even in the event of nuclear, biological or chemical warfare attacks. 

As one of the newest choppers on the list, the Eurocopter Tiger is also one of the most technologically advanced. It includes stealth capabilities with minimised visual, radar, infrared and acoustic signatures. It's also built from 80 per cent carbon fibre reinforced polymer and kevlar materials with a fuselage that can handle lightning strikes and electromagnetic pulses too. The Tiger boasts a mast-mounted Osiris system that operates as a thermal camera, laser range finder, target designator and more. 

Chief Petty Officer Joe Kane, U.S. Navy.Best Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 10

The Osprey

  • In production/use: 1989 to present
  • Estimated cost: $72.1 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
  • Crew: 4 - pilot, co-pilot and two flight engineers
  • Max speed: 316mph
  • Main armament: 1× 7.62 mm M240 machine gun or .50 in M2 Browning machine gun, 1× 7.62 mm belly-mounted GAU-17 minigun

The V-22 Osprey is one of the weirdest looking helicopters on our list. It's also remarkable and interesting thanks to its tiltrotor design and the ability to carry out both vertical takeoff and landing and short takeoff and landing manoeuvres. It's also one of the fastest choppers listed here - topping out at 316 miles per hour. 

The Osprey came about after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the US government needed something that could "...not only take off and land vertically but also could carry combat troops, and do so at speed." the Osprey was the answer. It can carry up to 32 troopers, 20,000 lb of cargo and even a Growler

It's the world's first tiltrotor aircraft, that takes off like a normal helicopter then the rotors turn 90-degrees to make it faster and more fuel-efficient too. The Osprey is not without its problems though, as the exhaust heat from its engines has been shown to damage the decks of aircraft carriers and the Navy had to come up with solutions to protect its ships. 

Communication Specialist Seaman Mark HaysBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 11

SuperCobra

  • In production/use: 1969 to present
  • Estimated cost: $10.7 million
  • Main army of service: US
  • Other names: Bell AH-1 SuperCobra
  • Crew: 2 - pilot, co-pilot/gunner
  • Max speed: 175mph
  • Main armament: 20 mm M197 3-barreled Gatling cannon, 2.75 in Mk 40, Hydra 70 rockets, 5 in (127 mm) Zuni rockets and AIM-9 Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles

The SuperCobra is a twin-engined attack helicopter in service with the US Marine Corps among others. It's part of the Huey family of choppers and has served the military well over the years since it first took the skies in 1969. It's now being phased out in favour of the newer Viper, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a mention. 

The SuperCobra served as far back as the Vietnam War and has seen several variants over the years including the SeaCobra, KingCobra, CobraVenom and more. 

78 SuperCobras were deployed during the Gulf War and those choppers flew over 1,200 missions without any combat losses. During that time they took out nearly 100 enemy tanks, 104 APCs and a couple of anti-aircraft sites too. 

The outdated SuperCobra is set to be replaced by the Viper next year. The Viper is faster and has more space on its wings for extra sidewinders and rocket pods or Hellfire launchers and thus is able to deal more damage than the Cobra. 

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Myrick /US NavyBest Helicopters And Attack Choppers Of All Time image 12

The Sea King

  • In production/use: 1969 to 1995
  • Estimated cost: $6.4 million
  • Main army of service: United Kingdom
  • Other names: Westland WS-61 Sea King
  • Crew: 2 to 4
  • Max speed: 129mph
  • Main armament: 4× Mark 44, Mark 46 or Sting Ray torpedoes or 4× Depth charges

As the name suggests, the Sea King was an ocean-centric helicopter developed specifically for anti-submarine warfare. It was designed to carry multiple torpedoes or depth charges to combat any submarine menace under the waters. 

The Sea King saw service for both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force but was retired in the mid-1990s. Another variant of the Sea King - the Westland Commando - was designed with the capacity to carry up to 28 fully laden troops. 

The Sea King was also interestingly modified with some models featuring an airborne early warning system to support intelligence. The Sea King served in the Falklands, the Balkans and the Gulf War but has been replaced by more modern choppers since. 

The Lynx

  • In production/use: 1971 to 2018
  • Estimated cost: U/K
  • Main army of service: United Kingdom
  • Other names: Westland Lynx
  • Crew: 2 to 3
  • Max speed: 201mph
  • Main armament: 2 x torpedoes or 4x Sea Skua missiles or 2 x depth charges, 2 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 70mm rocket pods CRV7, 8 x TOW ATGM or 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns

The Westland Lynx was a multi-purpose twin-engined helicopter that served both in the British Royal Navy and Army until 2018. The Lynx is well known for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact it's a fully aerobatic helicopter.

It can perform all sorts of manoeuvres including loops and rolls. It's also fairly nippy as standard and a modified version even broke airspeed records in the 80s clocking up 249.09 mph. That record remains unbroken. 

The Lynx was used in a multi-role capacity including as a transport aircraft, armed escort, anti-tank warfare helicopter, reconnaissance craft and more. It could be fitted with all manner of ordinance from anti-tank TOW missiles,  Sea Skua anti-ship missiles and depth charges too. It has now been decommissioned. 

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Airwolf

  • In production/use: 1983 
  • Estimated cost: $5 million
  • Main army of service: Stringfellow Hawke
  • Other names: Bell 222
  • Crew: 2 - pilot, co-pilot
  • Max speed: 350mph
  • Main armament: 2 x 30mm cannon, 2 x .50 BMG chain guns and all sorts of missiles from Hellfire to Nuclear

Ok, so Airwolf isn't technically a real helicopter but if it was it would have been one heck of a flying machine. Airwolf was based loosely on a conventional Bell 222 helicopter, but heavily (and fictionally) modified for the 1980s TV show of the same name. 

It was a high-tech military helicopter with some incredible firepower and futuristic features that included supersonic speed capabilities, a flight ceiling that could see it reach the stratosphere and a stealth noise signature. 

Airwolf's main feature was it looked outwardly like a civilian helicopter but could transformer into a killing machine in the blink of an eye. Airwolf's weaponry was seemingly so state-of-the-art that even the machine guns could tear a tank apart. The US Army no doubt daydreamt about such a machine.