One British helicopter stood at the pinnacle as the fastest helicopter in the world for over 3 decades, but in the past 10 years a new age of helicopter speed has dawned.
When it comes to the most technically advanced helicopters on the planet speed matters. Whether its reducing response times in emergencies or effectiveness on the battlefield helicopter manufacturers continually push the boundaries of speed to showcase the capabilities of their latest and greatest aircraft.
Helicopters reaching these high speeds run into a phenomenon called the flow separation boundary, which is greater in twin-rotor designs. Which is one reason why helicopter designs are becoming more elaborate with many manufacturers turning to hybrid designs to achieve stable higher speeds.
Read on to see which helicopters are pushing the boundaries in this new age for helicopter speed.
Bell Boeing V22 Osprey – 351 mph; 565 km/h; 305 knots
Not technically a helicopter the V22 Osprey is the Transformer of the aviation world. In just 12 seconds it can fully convert from an airplane into a helicopter. The ability to take-off, land and hover like a helicopter makes the V22 Osprey the most versatile modern hybrid aircraft. Whilst not technically a helicopter whilst travelling at its top speed of 351 mph it was a helicopter when it took off and landed.
Sikorsky X2 – 299 mph; 481 km/h; 260 knots
The Sikorsky X2 now holds the record for the fastest helicopter in the world. The helicopter first set the unofficial record in 2010 when a demonstrator model reached 287 mph but since production has achieved faster speeds. The X2 has 2 rotors instead of one, is operated by one pilot and it quieter, with the ability to make sharper turns than a typical helicopter. The twin rotors and pusher propeller generate enough force to fly over 10,000 feet.
Eurocopter X3 – 293 mph; 473 km/h; 255 knots
The Eurocopter X3 tops the list as the world’s fastest helicopter to-date, narrowly beating the Sikorsky X2’s unofficial record on 7 June, 2013. The experimental high speed helicopter was designed by Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters). The X3 is powered by 2 Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01/9a turboshaft engines, generating 1,693 kW (2,270 hp) of power each.
Image Credit: Bernd.Brincken
Westland Lynx – 249 mph; 401 km/h; 216 knots
The Westland Lynx has a top speed of 249 mph, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. It was orignally developed for the British Army and Royal Navy. The helicopter was retired in January after 31 years of active service.
The Lynx still held the official absolute speed record for rotorcraft throughout its entire service. Piloted by Trevor Eggington with Derek Clews, Flight Test Engineer they set the record over Somerset, England on August 11, 1986. Over 450 were built and over the past 4 decades the Westland Lynx has participated in every major British Militiary operation around the globe and it retired as the undisputed champion of speed.
Image Credit: British Army
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk – 222 mph; 357 km/h; 193 knots
The Black Hawk first entered into service in the US Army in 1979 as the Army’s tactical transport helicopter. It is still widely used with over 800 in service by the US Army and over 4000 have been built during its lifetime.
The UH-60 features four blade main and tail rotors and is powered by 2 General Electric t700 turboshaft engines. It can carry 11 troops with equipment, lift 2,600 pounds (1,200 kg) of cargo internally or 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) of cargo.
Image Credit: United States Ministry of Defence
Ch-47F Chinook – 196 mph; 315 km/h; 170 knots
The Chinook American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter is used primarily for troop movement, artillery placement, battlefield re-supply and international aid. It’s 2 powerful Honeywell T55-FA-714A engines each generate a powerful 3,529kW of power allowing altitudes of 20,000ft (6,096m) while carrying a load of nearly 11,000kg.
It is one of the fastest helicopter in the US fleet with a top speed of 196 mph and was first fielded in 2007. The high-capacity 3,194l fuel tank allows the Chinook to fly twice the distance of regular helicopters with an operational radius of 370.4km.
The US recently cut funding to the Chinook program stating that it needed to invest in the future of heavy-lift aircraft such as turboprop/helicopter hybrids like the Bell V-28 Valor. Its current fleet of Chinooks are still relatively new and are expected to be in service until 2040.
SPC Glenn Anderson – www.dvidshub.net
AW-159 Lynx Wildcat – 193 mph; 311 km/h; 168 knots
The replacement to the Westland Lynx is slower than its predecessor but more advanced in every other measure. The slower speed can be attributed to extra weight most of which comes from modular amour and armoured seats which give extra protection from stray bullets to its pilot and passengers.
Image Credit: PO(Phot) Si Ethell/MOD
Mi-35M (Hind E) – 193 mph; 211 kp/h; 168 knots
The Mi-35M is a multi-purpose military transport helicopter with a maximum cruising speed of 193 mph. The helicopter fulfills a similar role for the Russian military as the Chinook. It can carry a slightly greater weight of 11,500kg and has a larger range of 460km compared to the Chinook.
AW101 – 192 mph; 309 km/h; 167 knots
The AgustaWestland AW101 is a medium-lift helicopter used in both military and civil applications. First flown in 1987, it was developed by a joint venture between Westland Helicopters in the United Kingdom and Agusta in Italy in response to national requirements for a modern naval utility helicopter.
AW139 – 190 mph; 306 km/h; 165 knots
Since entering service in 2003, the AW139 has become one of AgustaWestland’s most influential products; it has been subsequently developed into two enlarged medium-lift helicopters, the military-orientated AW149 and the AW189 for the civil market.
It is used for a variety of purposes around the world, in the UK it is best known for it use by Her Majesty’s Coast Guard (MHGC).
The AW139 is a conventional twin-engine multi-role helicopter. It has a five-bladed fully articulated main rotor with a titanium hub and composite blades and a four-bladed articulated tail rotor.
Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” – 186 mph; 299 km/h; 162 knots
The Ka-52 ‘Alligator’ is a reconnaissance and combat helicopter designed for the Russian Air Force. Deployed as a 2-seater attack helicopter the Alligator is capable of destroying heavy armoured ground targets including tanks. It’s 2 Klimov VK-2500 turbo-shaft engines each generate 2,400hp giving the helicopter enough power to fly to altitudes over 5000m (16,404ft). The helicopter features advanced flight characteristics offering high maneuverability in confined spaces.
Image Credit: Flickr Pavel Vanka
Mi-28N “Night Hunter” – 186 mph; 299 km/h; 162 knots
The Mi-28N is a modern attack helicopter with a maximum speed of 186 mph, competing closely with the NH90 and Ka-52 Alligator helicopter, which offer the same speed.
Image Credit: Vladislav Perminov Flickr
NH-90 – 186 mph; 299 km/h; 162 knots
The NH90 is a modern multi-role aircraft which has 2 variations, maritime (NFH) and tactical troop transport (TTH). Developed by Europe’s NHIndustries partnership (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Aerostructures) the helicopters were designed to meet NATO requirements.
The NH90 benefits from modern manufacturing techniques resulting in a more seamless composite fuselage which has the benefit of fewer parts and lighter weight and 30% more endurance compared to a traditional metal structure. Using composite rotor blades has also improved their fatigue strength and damage tolerance in addition to improving the aerodynamic performance.