The helicopter has proven itself to be incredibly useful in various situations such as logistics, rescue or outright war. Since the appearance of the attack helicopter in WWII, they have changed the face of the battlefield, engaging infantry and vehicles on the ground. Here are the 10 greatest attack helicopters in the world today.
Having entered service in 2008 with the Chinese army, the Z-10 attack helicopter features a standard configuration for a gunship. It also has narrow fuselage and cockpits that are stepped tandem. The layout is as such that the pilot sits at the rear with the gunner seated at the front.
The Z-10 has an array of weapons which include a 30mm cannon, anti-tank guided missiles of the HJ-9 variety (which are similar to the TOW-2A), HJ-10 anti-tank missiles (similar to those of the AGM-114 Hellfire) air-to-air TY-90 missiles. What’s more, it is capable of carrying un-operated rocket pods.
9. Mi-24 Hind
One of the best known assault helicopters, the Mi-24 was the Russian Air Force’s first helicopter to enter service as an assault transport and gunship. It is a large helicopter gunship and attack helicopter as well as a troop transport for low-capacity with a maximum of 8 fully equipped passengers.
The helicopter’s stepped cockpits are heavily armoured and it has an under nose gun turret. The latest versions of the Mi-24 are fitted with 30mm twin barrel cannon. They also feature anti-tank missiles as well as un-operated rockets. It has seen extensive combat in many wars and conflicts.
8. AH-2 Rooivalk
Manufactured by Denel in South Africa, the AH-2 Rooivalk attack helicopter translates from Afrikaans as ‘Red Kestrel’. There are just 12 in operation with the South African air forces due to funding problems.
The Rooivalk comes with a 20mm cannon in a nose turret. It can be used in a variety of ways such as ground attack, fire support and escort roles. The attack helicopter is capable of carrying as many as 16 TOW or ZT-6 Mokopa anti-tank missiles. Air-to-air missiles and launchers can also be used with this attack helicopter.
7. AH-1 SuperCobra
Based on the AH-1 Cobra of the US Army, the SuperCobra is an attack helicopter with a twin engine. It continues to be an essential part of the helicopter fleet of the US Marine Corps but is being phased out for the Bell AH-1Z Viper.
First developed in the 1960s, there are various versions of this helicopter that include the AH-1J SeaCobra, AH-1T Improved SeaCobra and AH-1W SuperCobra. One of the main differences between the different versions is whether they have a single or twin engine. Another is their various weapons capabilities.
6. A129 Mangusta
The A129 is a lightweight attack helicopter and was the first to be produced in Western Europe. In 1990 the very first A129s were sent to the Italian army. However production was halted just two years later due to a lack of funding.
Being lightweight, the A129 does have less armour than other helicopters of its kind. It’s fitted with TOW or Hellfire anti-tank missiles since its primary role is anti-tank. The A129 can also feature anti-aircraft missiles such as Stinger or Mistral. Upgrades to the A129 Mangustas have brought them to the A129 International Standard which is a machine that offers greater flexibility. It has a 20mm under nose cannon.
5. AH-1Z Viper
Often described as one of the ultimate attack helicopters, the AH-1Z is a twin-engine attack helicopter. Its flexibility means that it is well suited to a variety of missions. The design of the Viper is based on the AH-1W SuperCobra and it was introduced in 2010 before becoming operational in 2012. Used by the Marine Corps, it has an improved engine and rotor and a new targeting system.
A 20mm three-barrel cannon is equipped while it can also carry up to 16 anti-tank guided missiles.
4. Eurocopter Tiger
Co-developed by France and Germany, the Eurocopter Tiger entered service in 2002 and is a medium-weight attack helicopter. Besides France and Germany, it is also in service in other countries such as Spain and Australia.
Stealth technology is an important feature of the Eurocopter Tiger. It comes in two configurations which are attack and fire support. The attack version is equipped with anti-tank missiles and unguided rockets. On top of this, it also features Stinger air-to-air missiles but doesn’t include a cannon.
3. Mi-28 Havoc
The Mi-28 Havoc was under development for several decades until it was finally entered into service in 2006 with the Russian army. It is one of the most heavily armoured helicopters around and its two armoured cockpits are evidence of this.
There is also an emergency escape system and a small passenger compartment for up to 3 passengers. Typically, the Mi-28 sports eight Ataka anti-armor missiles as well as unguided rocket pods. The Russian army currently has 20 Mi-28s, and it is said to be in service in Kenya too.
2. Kamov Ka-50
This Russian attack helicopter is single-seated and features a unique coaxial rotor system. Design began in the 1980s before it was introduced in 1995 with the Russian army.
The idea behind the design was to create a small and fast attack helicopter which meant foregoing some weight. It is capable of carrying up to 24 Vikhr anti-tank missiles. It can also carry Archer air-to-air missiles and has a 30mm mounted cannon. The Ka-50 is able to reach speeds of 350 kilometres per hour.
1. AH-64D Apache Longbow
The Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter is the undisputed king of attack helicopters. Capable of combat day or night no matter the weather, it met the strict requirements of the US army.
It played a vital role in the Gulf War where it was arguably the most powerful anti-armor weapon system. The modern technology and fire control systems are impressive but what really sets it apart is its firepower. It can be equipped with some 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a total of 76 70mm aerial rockets as well as 30mm rounds (up to 1,200) for its automatic cannon.