Special Report

The Helicopters of the U.S. Military

viper-zero / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Helicopters have been indispensable in modern U.S. military operations for decades, providing crucial air support, facilitating troop and equipment transport, and serving various roles on the battlefield.

In identifying all of the helicopters in active service in the U.S. military, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the 2023 report, World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. The helicopters are ranked by the number of units in active service. We included all variants of each helicopter in the count and excluded all helicopters from the Coast Guard. Supplemental data regarding the type of helicopter, how many are in active service, and how many are on order came from FlightGlobal. Data on each helicopter’s first flight and variants came from various military and historical sources.

Various militaries worldwide use multiple variations of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, a variant of the S-70. This helicopter has participated in several significant military operations and was prominently featured in the Hollywood film, “Black Hawk Down.” According to NPR, there are even claims that a stealth version of the Black Hawk was used in the mission targeting Osama bin Laden.

Clearly, among the helicopters listed here, there is a notable diversity in the functions they serve via their unique variants. Militaries typically stick with proven models, modifying and outfitting them as operational needs change. A prime example is the Black Hawk, operational for nearly fifty years and has the most variants among the listed helicopters. It serves diverse roles like search and rescue, medium-lift operations, and even serves as a gunship across various military branches.

 The prolonged service of many helicopters on the list can be attributed in part to their repurposing over time. These helicopters range from models first flown in the mid-1950s to those introduced as recently as the last decade.

Among all branches of the U.S Armed Forces, the Army has the largest helicopter fleet. Primarily composed of the Black Hawk, Apache, and Chinook models, these helicopters fill various roles, including transporting troops to and from combat zones, and other various roles.

Helicopters are essential in modern military operations, and those in active service in the U.S. military are among the most advanced worldwide. 

Here are all the helicopters in the US military:

18. Airbus H125

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Variants: H125, AS350
  • Active in military: 1 (tied)
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: June 1974

17. Mil Mi-24 Hind

Source: VanderWolf-Images / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Type: Trainer
  • Active in military: 1 (tied)
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: September 1969

16. Bell 407

Source: Mgroessing / Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Active in military: 5 (tied)
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: June 1995

15. MH-139 Grey Wolf

Source: Courtesy of Boeing
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Active in military: 5 (tied)
  • On order for the military: 75
  • First flight: February /2001

14. Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Active in military: 7
  • On order for the military: 197
  • First flight: October 2015

13. Mi-8/17 Hip

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Variants: Mi-8, Mi-17
  • Active in military: 10
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: July 1961

12. Leonardo AW119 Koala

Source: Refueled Dot Net / Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Trainer
  • Active in military: 13
  • On order for the military: 117
  • First flight: February 1995

11. MH-53E Sea Dragon

Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Active in military: 28
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: October 1964

10. MH-6 Little Bird

Source: mashleymorgan / Flickr
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Variants: MD500 (AH/MH-6)
  • Active in military: 47
  • On order for the military: 74
  • First flight: February 1963

9. TH-57 Sea Ranger

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Trainer
  • Active in military: 115
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: 1961

8. Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion

Source: Robert Sullivan / Public Domain / Flickr
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Active in military: 140
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: March 1974

7. Bell AH-1Z Viper

Source: Robert Sullivan / Public Domain / Flickr
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Active in military: 159
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: September 2010

6. Bell UH-1

Source: viper-zero / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Type: Combat helicopter, trainer
  • Variants: OH-58 Kiowa, UH-1 Iroquois, UH-1N Twin Huey, UH-1Y Venom
  • Active in military: 234
  • On order for the military: 0
  • First flight: October 1956

5. Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey

Source: viper-zero / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Variants: CV-22, MV-22
  • Active in military: 360
  • On order for the military: 77
  • First flight: March 1989

4. Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Combat helicopter, trainer
  • Variants: H145 (UH-72A/B)
  • Active in military: 475
  • On order for the military: 38
  • First flight: June 2006

3. Boeing CH-47 Chinook

Source: tomasdelcoro / Flickr
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Variants: CH-47D/F/MH-47G
  • Active in military: 513
  • On order for the military: 30
  • First flight: September 1961

2. Boeing AH-64 Apache

Source: tomasdelcoro / Flickr
  • Type: Combat helicopter
  • Variants: AH-64D/E
  • Active in military: 824
  • On order for the military: 15
  • First flight: September 1975

1. S-70 Black Hawk

Source: fikretozk / iStock via Getty Images
  • Type: Combat helicopter, trainer
  • Variants: HH-60G, U, W, MH-60G, EH, MH, UH-60, MH-60R/S, UH-60A/L
  • Active in military: 2,912
  • On order for the military: 401
  • First flight: October 1974

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