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This Is the Most Widely Used Combat Helicopter in the World

Vitaly V. Kuzmin / Wikimedia Commons

The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia has inflicted significant costs on both sides. However, the recent developments seem to favor Ukraine, with its forces asserting the destruction of several Russian helicopters in the past week. While Russia has encountered some setbacks, its fleet of rotary-wing aircraft remains pivotal in its efforts to combat Ukraine’s counteroffensive. (These are the countries with the biggest helicopter fleets.)

Combat helicopters have been an indispensable component of modern warfare since they were first used in World War II. Military forces worldwide have adopted these rotary aircraft for various purposes, including troop transport, search and rescue, and combat engagement. 

To determine the most widely-used combat helicopters on Earth, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the report, 2023 World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. We ranked aircrafts by the number of units in active service across the world’s militaries. Supplemental data regarding manufacturer, first flight, notable variants, and initial use came from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more.

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, a variation of the S-70, was developed for the U.S. Army in the 1970s. It is a popular utility helicopter because of its versatility. While not primarily conceived as an attack helicopter, the Black Hawk has been modified to offer a range of combat options, including aerial assault, medical evacuation, and reconnaissance missions. Its adaptability has made it a valuable tool for dozens of militaries across the globe, featuring in countless international conflicts and peacekeeping missions. It is currently the most widely-used helicopter. (Here is every helicopter in the U.S. military.)

The Mil Mi-24 Hind is a heavily armored assault helicopter designed by the Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant. It has been in service since the early 1970s and is used by nearly 50 countries. Considering its dual-role as an attack helicopter and troop carrier, the Mi-24 has variable armament capabilities that can be tailored for various combat scenarios, including anti-tank guided missiles, rocket pods, and machine guns. 

Helicopters that play a variety of roles tend to fill out this list with a series of variants for the different roles. While helicopters are generally designed for one role, it is often cheaper to repurpose the same helicopter when operational needs change – hence the different variations. One example is the Black Hawk, which has been in service for nearly half a century and has more variants than any other helicopter on this list as it serves a multitude of roles, including search and rescue, medium-lift operations, and even as a gunship, across military branches. 

Repurposing helicopters in part explains why many of the helicopters on the list have been in the service for decades. This list is populated by helicopters first flown in the mid-1950s to the present.

Modern warfare continues to rely on aviation technology to maintain a tactical advantage on the battlefield. Among the numerous aircraft deployed in combat scenarios, helicopters have proven indispensable in providing troops with speedy transportation, air support, and reconnaissance. 

Here is a look at the most widely-used combat helicopters used on Earth.

Source: Jozsef Soos / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

10. Eurocopter EC145
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 454 (in 12 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Airbus Helicopters
> First flight: 1999
> Initially used by: France
> Notable variants: UH-72 Lakota, H145 Jupiter

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9. MD Helicopters MD500
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 564 (in 20 militaries)
> Manufactured by: MD Helicopters, Hughes Helicopters, McDonnell Douglas
> First flight: 1963
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: MD500 Defender, MD500D Scout Defender, MD530 Nightfox

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

8. Bell AH-1 Cobra
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 565 (in 15 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Bell Helicopter Company
> First flight: 1963
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: Bell AH-1 Cobra, KingCobra, SeaCobra, Viper

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. Bell Model 212
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 666 (in 26 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Bell Helicopter Company
> First flight: 1968
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: Bell 212, Bell 412

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Source: VanderWolf-Images / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

6. Mil Mi-24 Hind
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 922 (in 49 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
> First flight: 1969
> Initially used by: Soviet Union
> Notable variants: Mil Mi-24 Hind-A, Mil Mi-35 Hind-E

Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

5. CH-47 Chinook
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 934 (in 21 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Boeing
> First flight: 1961
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: CH-47 A/B/C/D

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4. Bell UH-1 Iroquois
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 950 (in 38 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Bell Helicopter Company
> First flight: 1956
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: UH-1V Venom, Huey II

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. AH-64 Apache
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 1,233 (in 19 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Boeing, McDonnel Douglas
> First flight: 1975
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: AH-64D Apache Longbow, AH-64E Guardian

2. Mil Mi-17 Hip-H
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 2,804 (in 53 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, Russian Helicopters
> First flight: 1961
> Initially used by: Soviet Union
> Notable variants: Mi-17-1VA, Mi-17KF

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Source: fikretozk / iStock via Getty Images

1. Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk
> Number of helicopters in service as of 2023: 3,962 (in 34 militaries)
> Manufactured by: Sikorsky Aircraft
> First flight: 1974
> Initially used by: United States
> Notable variants: SH-60 Seahawk, UH-60 Black Hawk

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