When it comes to helicopters, speed and efficiency are one of the most important factors in the design, far more important than comfort. Aeronautics engineers spend years hunched over blueprints to make helicopters faster and faster. So if you have a need for speed, what’s the best helicopter you can get? Find out below!
Most helicopters are used in situations where their speed is crucial. Helicopters are essential pieces of equipment for search and rescue, transport of emergency supplies, and even fighting forest fires. Military forces across the globe use them for reconnaissance, transport, and more.
In fact, most of the fastest helicopters in the world are military helicopters. Speed is of the essence in the fast-paced world of modern warfare, and the world’s armies are constantly funding efforts to try to make faster helicopters.
Here are some of the world’s fastest helicopters using the criteria of kilometers per hour traveled. As new technology develops, today’s fastest helicopters may soon become tomorrow’s slowpokes!
Table of Contents
- 15. Boeing AH-64 “Apache”
- 14. Mil Mi-26
- 13. NH Industries NH-90
- 12. Mil Mi-28
- 11. Kamov KA-52 “Alligator”
- 10. AgustaWestland AW101 “Merlin”
- 9. AgustaWestland AW139
- 8. Mil Mi-35 “Hind”
- 7. AgustaWestland AW159 “Wildcat”
- 6. Boeing CH-47F “Chinook”
- 5. Sikorsky UH-60 “Black Hawk”
- 4. Westland Lynx
- 3. Eurocopter X3
- 2. Sikorsky X2
- 1. Bell Boeing V22 Osprey
15. Boeing AH-64 “Apache”
More info: Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow
The Boeing AH-64 Apache is one of the most iconic and recognizable military helicopters of all time. It is one of the fastest as well, although not the fastest. It can fly at a speed of 279 km/hour and cruise at a speed of 260 km/hour. Some newer models are able to push this speed even further.
The Apache was first developed in the 1980s and used primarily by the United States military. It saw action in Afghanistan as well as Operation Desert Storm and peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. It’s most famous for its exploits in the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban.
The Apache may not be the fastest helicopter in the world, but it is still one of the most demanded by global militaries. That’s because its battle capacities are well-proven. Boeing estimates that it will be the top military helicopter into the 2060s. Sometimes, speed is less important than reliability.
14. Mil Mi-26
More info: MIL Mi-26 ‘Halo’
The Mil Mi-26 is not exactly a new kid on the block—it was developed by Mil when that company was still a Soviet weapons manufacturer (It now belongs to Russia.). However, the iconic Mi-26 is still one of the fastest helicopters in the world, beating out many newer models. It has a top speed of 294 km/hour.
The Mi-26’s speed is even more impressive when you think about the fact that it is also one of the heaviest helicopters in the world, weighing in at a whopping 28,200 kilograms. It can fit 70–100 passengers in addition to a five-person crew, making it one of the best helicopters in the world for troop transports.
This twin-engine heavy helicopter has been in service since 1985, so the average Mi-26 has some pretty impressive battle scars. Its incredibly powerful engine has an impressive thrust to help get the heavy chopper off the ground.
13. NH Industries NH-90
More info: NHI NH90 NFH
In terms of versatility, it’s hard to beat the NH Industries NH-90. This helicopter, designed as part of a collaboration between several European weapons manufacturers, can fill many different roles. It is also pretty speedy, reaching a top speed of 300 km/hour.
This medium-speed helicopter can fill a few different roles, for example as a troop transporter for militaries or working for civilian agencies hauling cargo. There are even two main variants, the Tactical Transport Helicopter and the NATO Frigate Helicopter.
The NH-90 is even more versatile than it seems at first because each customer can customize the machines. It can even support naval operations. However, the versatility and speed are not matched by reliability because many militaries have complained about the shoddy workmanship of the helicopter.
12. Mil Mi-28
More info: Mil Mi-28 “Havoc”
Another one of Mil’s excellent helicopters, the Mi-28, has slightly faster speeds than the Mi-26. It can reach maximum speeds of around 320 km/hour, although for performance reasons it shouldn’t fly that fast for very long.
The Mi-28’s design is very similar to Boeing’s Apache helicopter because the Soviet (and now Russian) military wanted an answer to the Apache’s amazing specs. Although the Mi-28 is slightly faster, it is not as reliable in battle, which explains why there are far more Boeing Apaches in the world than Mil Mi-28s.
One famous variation of the Mil Mi-28 is the Mi-28N, nicknamed the “Night Hunter,” which has day-to-night transitioning abilities. This is very useful because modern warfare does not only happen during the day.
11. Kamov KA-52 “Alligator”
More info: Kamov Ka-52 Alligator
Kamov’s KA-52 is another attempt by the Soviet/Russian military industry to replicate the success of the Apache helicopter. The Ka-52 is slightly faster than both the Mi-28 and the Apache. Its regular cruising speed is faster than the Mi-28’s at 270 km/h. Its maximum speed is also better than the Mi-28’s, and it can go well over 300 km/h.
While the maximum recorded speed for the KA-52 is 350 km/h, more than some of the helicopters higher up on this list, it’s not built to withstand such high speeds for a very long time. Because flying fast can damage the helicopter, it doesn’t top other slightly slower helicopters that are more consistent.
The reason the KA-52 can reach such high speeds is thanks to its unique design. Most Kamov helicopters have a main coaxial rotor arrangement instead of one main rotor and a tail rotor. This arrangement looks strange but increases the speed of the helicopter.
10. AgustaWestland AW101 “Merlin”
More info: Agusta Westland AW101 Merlin
AgustaWestland, now part of the Italian company Leonardo, is a European firm that has been the brains behind some of the fastest helicopters in the world. One of its military models, the AW101 (nicknamed “Merlin”), can fly at a maximum speed of 309 km/hour.
Other features of the AW101 make it an attractive helicopter for the world’s militaries as well as civilian agencies that need a reliable machine. It is spacious, with enough cabin space to transport troops as well as cargo, including weapons. It has advanced safety features such as a built-in missile-countering system.
The AW101 is the backbone of the British Royal Navy, which realized suddenly in the 1980s that they were relying on aging, unreliable helicopters. They commissioned a helicopter that is still one of the most modern in the world, decades later.
9. AgustaWestland AW139
More info: AgustaWestland AW139
Almost all the helicopters on this list are military helicopters, which makes sense because the military is the most likely to invest in developing faster helicopters and feel the urgency of flying fast. However, the AgustaWestland AW139 is the exception to the rule. This civilian helicopter can fly at a maximum speed of 310 km/hour and can maintain a cruise speed that is only a bit slower, 306 km/hr.
Its speed and easy configurations make the AW139 popular for a variety of uses. Even though it is fast, it still has space to carry up to 15 passengers, making it a favorite for VIP transport organizers. Civilian agencies use it for search-and-rescue and medical evacuation, situations where speed is a matter of life and death.
The AW139 is such a reliable, fast machine that even the world’s militaries wanted this ostensibly civilian machine, so AgustaWestland started designing military versions of the helicopter.
8. Mil Mi-35 “Hind”
The Mi-35 is one of the fastest that then-Soviet, now-Russian manufacturer Mil has in its stable. The helicopter can reach a maximum speed of 310 km/hour.
The Mi-35 uses the older model of the Mi-24 as a base and improves on many inefficiencies of the older helicopter’s design. Besides being faster, the Mi-35 is also bigger. Newer models have the latest in helicopter technology including laser rangefinders, digital cockpits, and more.
The Mi-35 “Hind” is an aeronautics marvel because it combines the best of the old with the newest innovations. This series was one of the last that the great engineer Mikhail Mil worked on before his death but also contains some of the latest modern technology.
7. AgustaWestland AW159 “Wildcat”
More info: Agusta Westland AW159 Wildcat
The AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat is another helicopter that AgustaWestland produced for the Royal Navy. Although its average maximum cruise speed is 263 km/hour, some newer models can reach a maximum speed of 311 km/hr.
The AW159 is a variation on an older Westland helicopter called the “Lynx.” Although the older helicopter is actually faster, the AW159 is technologically more advanced. It is slightly larger and heavier. It also has extra protection for battle, such as plated armor and armored seats.
Besides the British Royal Navy, the AW159 is used by other militaries including the South Korean Navy.
6. Boeing CH-47F “Chinook”
More info: Boeing CH-47F Chinook
Boeing’s CH-47F helicopter, affectionately known as the Chinook, is one of the world’s fastest military helicopters (at one point, it was the fastest in the world). It can reach a maximum speed of 315 km/hour.
The Boeing Chinook is able to be so fast even though it is a heavy helicopter thanks to its twin-rotor system. Rotors over the main cockpit and over the tail help lift the helicopter off the ground.
The Chinook’s twin rotors generate a powerful thrust, meaning that this helicopter can fly at top speeds while carrying heavy cargo including military machinery.
5. Sikorsky UH-60 “Black Hawk”
More info: Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
The Sikorsky UH-60, commonly known as the “Black Hawk,” is probably one of the best-known military helicopters in the world, even among people who are not military and aviation enthusiasts. It is also one of the fastest with a top cruising speed of 280 km/hour and an overall top speed of 193 knots or 357 km/hr.
The Sikorsky UH-60 is famous among the public thanks to the movie Black Hawk Down, which follows a group of US Army Rangers in Somalia whose Black Hawk helicopters are shot down.
In real life, the Sikorsky UH-60 is one of the most versatile helicopters at the Army’s disposal.
4. Westland Lynx
More info: Westland Lynx
The Westland Lynx is the original helicopter that formed the basis of the slightly slower AW159. It has an average cruising speed of 324 km/hour.
At one point, the Westland Lynx set the world record for speed, flying at 400 km/hr. The record-breaking flight happened in 1986 and was set by a modified version of the Lynx to fly at higher speeds than usual. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Westland Lynx was at one point the fastest helicopter in the world.
The British Royal Navy has since retired the Westland Lynx, but for decades, the helicopter was one of the best in the world.
3. Eurocopter X3
The Eurocopter X3 is an experimental helicopter with one goal in mind—to achieve the world’s top speeds. It reached that goal in 2013 when it set an unofficial speed record for a helicopter, reaching a maximum speed of 472 km/hour in a level flight.
The X3, now owned by Airbus, achieves its maximum speed by decreasing rotor rotation and adding stabilizing propellers at the side.
However, the X3 is not actually in widespread operation. Airbus just built it as a demonstrator to show that it had the technology to fly that fast.
2. Sikorsky X2
The Sikorsky X2 is the fastest conventional helicopter in the world. One of its demonstrator models reached a top speed of 481 km/hour, although it’s not good for the helicopter to consistently fly at that speed.
The Sikorsky X2 can reach these speeds thanks to its dual rotors and powerful engine.
Unlike the Eurocopter X3, the Sikorsky X2 is both fast and functional. The prototype was used to develop the Sikorsky S-97 Raider and the Boeing-Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant which are in use by the US military.
1. Bell Boeing V22 Osprey
More info: Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
The fastest helicopter in the world is technically not a helicopter at all. The Bell Boeing V22 Osprey is a machine that can convert from an airplane to a helicopter.
The top recorded speed for the V22 Osprey is 563 km/hour, which it achieved while flying as a helicopter.
The V22 Osprey is currently in use by the US military, where it is beloved thanks to its speed and versatility even though it lacks the stability of airplanes.