The need for speed is never-ending in the aviation world. Whether it means the fastest response time to help in an emergency or quickness on the battlefield, manufacturers are constantly looking to push the limits of how fast a helicopter can go. For decades, a certain British helicopter was the king of airspeed, but recently, many new contenders have entered the ring to claim the title of the world’s fastest helicopter. What is the fastest helicopter? Read on to find out what the single fastest helicopter is and how close its contenders are to reaching it.
Starting with the “slowest,” here are the 15 fastest helicopters in the world today:
AH-64D Apache – 176 MPH
The American-made four-blade Apache made its first flight in 1975, and it remains one of the fastest military helicopters in the world. The AH-64 is also regarded as one of the most advanced multi-mission combat helicopters. According to its manufacturer, Boeing, the AH-64 Apache is the most advanced and dynamic combat helicopter in the U.S. Army, and in the world. Boeing has delivered more than 2,400 Apaches around the world, including a growing number of international defenses.
What sets the Apache apart is its advanced sensor system, including sophisticated infrared and laser target acquisition systems. The twin-cockpit Apache fires laser-guided precision Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets, and has a 30mm automatic cannon. The Apache is powered by two high-performing turboshaft engines that lead to a cruising speed of 284 kilometers per hour (152 knots).
Mi-26 Halo – 183 MPH
Known by some as the world’s most powerful helicopter, the Mi-26 Halo is a heavy-lift helicopter made in Russia by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant. The chopper came into service in 1985 and is used for both military and civilian applications. There are around 276 Mi-26 helicopters operating around the world, including Venezuela, Mexico, Malaysia, South Korea, North Korea, Cyprus, Laos, Greece, Peru, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and India. The first order came in 1989 from the Indian Air Force for two Mi-26 helicopters at a cost of $3.86 million.
The Mi-26 was designed to replace the Mi-6 and the Mi-12 helicopters. It was designed to increase reliability and flight safety while reducing the workload of the flight crew. It is also designed to reduce mission planning time and total operational costs.
The Mil Mi-26 Halo features eight top rotor blades and five tail rotor blades. The engine bays are manufactured with titanium to provide a safeguard against enemy fire. It weighs 62,170 pounds and has a maximum carrying weight of 123,459 pounds. On the rear of the five-man cockpit is a 12-meter-long cargo compartment that can hold two 1000-kilogram combat vehicles.
The Mi-26 is loaded with advanced features. The main and tail rotor blades are electrically de-iced, infrared jammers, suppressors, and decoy dispensers are all available, along with a flare system to protect from ballistic missiles. The chopper is powered by two Lotarev D-136 turboshaft engines, which can each produce 8,380 kilowatts of power. A Groza 7A813 handles the weather radar, along with a Doppler, PKV-26-1 flight navigation system, automatic flight control, and an automatic hover system.
NH90 – 186 MPH
The NH90 is a multi-role military helicopter that can reach cruising speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. It contains two 2,000 kilowatt engines featuring a dual-channel Full Authority Digital Electronic Control system and can reach a maximum altitude of 10,500 feet at a climb rate of 2,200 feet per minute. The NH90 was designed to meet the requirements of NATO members. It was first delivered to the German Army in 2006 and is primarily used by France, Italy, the Netherlands, and German armed forces.
Ka52 Alligator – 186 MPH
Designed to meet the reconnaissance and combat demand of the Russian Air Force, the Ka52 Alligator offers high maneuverability in tight spaces. Twin VK-2500 turboshaft engines create a horsepower of 2,400, which allows the helicopter to fly at altitudes exceeding 16,404 feet. The Alligator can take off and land in nearly any type of weather condition. A naval version, the Ka-52K was also built for the Russian Navy.
Mi-28N Night Hunter – 186 MPH
The Mi-28N Night Hunter is an attack helicopter that can reach cruising speeds of 300 kilometers per hour. It is designed for search and destroy operations against tanks, armored vehicles, and low-speed airborne targets. Two VK-2500 engines power the Night Hunter at 2,200 horsepower each. The Mi28N Night Hunter can reach an altitude of over 18,000 feet.
AgustaWestland AW139 – 190 MPH
The AW139 entered service in 2003 and is one of the most influential products developed by AgustaWestland. The AW139 is used for a variety of applications around the world. Most notably, it is used in the United Kingdom by Her Majesty’s Coast Guard. Variants of the AW139 have subsequently been made, including the combat-oriented AW149. The AW149 is currently used by the Egyptian Navy, the Royal Thai Police, and the Royal Thai Army. The AW189 was developed for the civil market.
AW101 (EH101 Merlin) – 192 MPH
The AW101 (formerly known as EH101 Merlin), is a medium-lift helicopter that can reach speeds of 309 kilometers per hour. It was the first helicopter used by the British Royal Navy and came into service in 2000. The AW101 is powered by three Rolls Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01 engines, which each deliver 2,270 horsepower to the aircraft. The AW101 has a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet.
MI-35M (HIND E) – 193 MPH
The Mi-35M (codenamed by NATO “HIND E”) is a multi-purpose military transport that is similar to the United States military transport CH-47 Chinook. The HIND E is slightly slower than the Chinook, but it has a longer travel range of 285 miles.
The Mi-35M is an upgraded version of the Mi-24 HIND helicopter and entered production in 2005. It is powered by two 2,200 horsepower VK-2500 engines and can take on combat missions in any type of weather conditions, day and night.
CH-47 Chinook – 196 MPH
The Chinook is the fastest helicopter operated by the U.S. Army. The CH-47 Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter that features a twin-turbo engine and two tandem rotors, which allow it to transport troops, artillery, and aid in battlefield resupply.
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk – 222 MPH
The Black Hawk first came into service in the U.S. Army in 1979 as a tactical transport helicopter. It can hold 11 soldiers with equipment and 9,000 pounds of cargo. There are over 800 Black Hawks currently in use by the U.S. Army, and over 4,000 have been built over its lifetime.
Westland Lynx – 249 MPH
The Westland Lynx was a legend in its day. Originally developed for the British Royal Navy and British Army, the Lynx’s top speed of 249 miles per hour was unmatched during its 31 years of production. The Lynx originally set the record for the fastest helicopter on August 11, 1986. There were over 450 built over four decades, and the Westland Lynx took part in every major British military operation during its time. The Lynx was replaced by the AW159 Lynx Wildcat.
AW159 Lynx Wildcat – 193 MPH
The Lynx Wildcat can only reach 193 miles per hour, but it is much more advanced in every other aspect to the Lynx. The slower speed from the Wildcat is due to modular and armored seats that protect the pilot and passengers from stray bullets.
Eurocopter X3 – 293 MPH
The Eurocopter X3 had been the fastest helicopter in the world, beating the Sikorsky X2 on June 7, 2013, but it has since been narrowly beaten out by the Sikorsky. The Eurocopter X3 is powered by two Rolls Royce Turbomeca turboshaft engines, each generating 2,270 horsepower. Developed by Airbus (formerly Eurocopter), the X3 is an experimental helicopter designed as a high-speed, long-range hybrid. While conventional helicopters use tail rotors to counteract the torque effect of the main top rotor, the X3 features shorter wings, each with a propeller on the front as you would find on a propeller plane.
Sikorsky X2 – 299 MPH
Back in 2010, the Sikorsky X2 set an unofficial record for the fastest record helicopter travel time at 287 MPH. But the modern version of the helicopter can now reach a high of 299 MPH, making it the fastest true helicopter in the world. One of the unique aspects of the Sikorsky X2 is its twin rotors, with one smaller rotor sitting underneath a larger diameter rotor. The X2 also features a pusher propeller in the rear, and combined with the twin rotors, it can reach 10,000 feet above sea level.
Bell Boeing V22 Osprey – 351 MPH
It feels like cheating to have the Transformers-esque V22 Osprey at the top of this list of the fastest helicopter in the world. That is because technically, it is not considered a helicopter. However, it can change from a plane into a helicopter in under 12 seconds. While the plane does not fly as a helicopter when traveling at its top speed of 351 MPH, it takes off and lands as one. This versatility makes the V22 Osprey one of the most fascinating aircraft in the world.