Fastest Military Transport Helicopters in the World

Updated on August 11, 2018
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Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast is his passion, and he writes about them on numerous reputable sites.

Military Transport Helicopters - An Introduction

In our article on Military Attack Helicopters, we saw the importance of choppers to the military world. One other aspect we also saw was that barring Russia no other country initially had a dual purpose chopper to carry out attacks and transport personnel at the same time. So, there was a separate breed of transport choppers that came up. In this article, we will see such transport choppers which are an effective piece of a country’s military strategy.

The lift helicopters are capable of inserting military personnel in war situations as much as retrieve them as required. The movie Black Hawk Down is a good example of both types of movement. While we talk about personnel movement many of the lift helicopters on this list can even carry attack vehicles to the war zone and few of them are so powerful that they can actually carry an airliner if required. So these are quite an interesting piece of military equipment.

Although we will be listing each of the choppers in the sequence of their speed, each of them is fun to know about. I think it is about time we got started.

1. V-22 Osprey

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This is one of the oldest tiltrotor Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL), Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capable craft. It has been in operation since 1989 but because of its military only use, it was hardly known to the world. If you look at the picture it would be hard to disagree that this is real sci-fi stuff.

  • Name: V-22 Osprey
  • Manufacturer: Bell - Boeing
  • Top Speed: 305.2 knots [350.9 mph or 565 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 241 knots [277 mph or 446 kmph] [at sea level. Will be greater in higher altitude]
  • Crew Size: 4
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 24 [on seats] or 32 [floor seated]
  • Numbers Produced: 300+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1988
  • Status: In production and active service

The Osprey brings in the short take-off capability of a helicopter and a flight speed which is greater than a helicopter. That is why it’s speed is way more than a conventional helicopter which is third on this list. It was developed in collaboration between Bell and Boeing. Despite its speed, it is quite a big craft.

2. Bell V - 280 Valor

V - 280 at a Heli - Expo
V - 280 at a Heli - Expo | Source

The V-280 Valor in design closely resembles the Osprey. However, this is a newer model and is expected in service only by 2020. This craft was developed in collaboration between Bell and Lockheed Martin.

  • Name: V-280 Valor
  • Manufacturer: Bell – Lockheed Martin
  • Top Speed: 423 knots [487 mph or 560 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 280 knots [322 mph or 519 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 4
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 14
  • Numbers Produced: 300+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1988
  • Status: Under development

The V-280 is expected to be cruising around at 280 knots and that is how the name V-280. The top speed is around 560 kmph bringing it quite close to the Osprey. In fact, there would be no surprises if the final production model is way faster; the only thing then to do is to change the position on this list. The tiltrotor model has worked so well with the military that it was hardly opened to the public. However, with the AgustaWestland AW609, again a collaboration between Bell and Agusta, the civilian side will get their first tiltrotor craft. You can read more about AW609 in the article on Fastest Civilian Helicopters. Bell incidentally, is the common collaborator between all the tiltrotor models.

3. Airbus Helicopters H160M

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The Airbus H160 is the fastest conventional military chopper in the world. Overall, however, it comes after the tiltrotors. It has both civilian and military functions. Launched originally as Eurocopter X4, as a follow-up of the fastest military attack helicopter, the Eurocopter X3. However, it was later changed to Airbus Helicopters with the model being H160.

  • Name: Airbus Helicopters H160
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • Top Speed: 175.5 knots [201.9 mph or 325 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 155 knots [178.3 mph or 287 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 12 [Military or Civilian]
  • Numbers Produced: 100-150 [Expected]
  • Year of Manufacture: Expected by 2019
  • Status: In development stage. Moving to production

The civilian version of the helicopter will be H160 while the military version will be H160 M. The deliveries of the helicopter was to start by end of 2018, but now will be from early 2019. The French military has already ordered the H160 to replace its aging fleet of helicopters which are anyways much slower. The French would be replacing helicopters from all three arms – Army, Navy and Air Force – and would be one of the firsts in the military world to order the H160M.

4. Airbus H225 M [EC 725]

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The H225M is actually the more famous Eurocopter EC725 Caracal, being renamed in 2015. The EC 725 is very much a military helicopter and is typically used for long-range tactical operations, including troop transportation, casualty evacuation, combat, and search and rescue.

  • Name: H225 M [EC 725]
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • Top Speed: 175 knots [201.2 mph or 324 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 153.9 knots [177 mph or 285 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 29
  • Numbers Produced: 40+ [Pipeline Order + Delivered]
  • Year of Manufacture: 2005
  • Status: In production and active service

In terms of speed, it is second only to the H160 and is quite close to its speed as well.

5. Boeing CH - 47 Chinook

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The CH – 47 is one of the oldest serving and one of the few heavy-lift helicopters in the world. Incidentally, it is also one of the fastest. The CH – 47 belongs to the class of helicopters which can even lift an aircraft – see the picture below. At the height of the Falkland War, a British Chinook was estimated to have carried about 81 troops in a distress carry.

  • Name: CH – 47 Chinook
  • Manufacturer: Boeing
  • Top Speed: 170 knots [195.7 mph or 315 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 159 knots [184 mph or 296 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 3
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 33 - 55 Troops
  • Numbers Produced: 1500+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1962
  • Status: In active service and active production

Airlifting an F-15
Airlifting an F-15 | Source

The Chinook is one helicopter which is serving many countries around the world. In fact, in the Falkland war, it was serving both the British and Argentine military. As of 2016, there were talks of manufacturing the Chinook in India, under the ‘Make in India’ banner.

6. Aerospatiale Gazelle

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The Gazelle is a French manufactured light transport helicopter. As of 2018, it serves many countries. In fact, this is one helicopter which will be replaced by the Airbus H160 M from the French arsenal. However, it will continue to serve its global customers.

  • Name: Gazelle
  • Manufacturer: Sud Aviation
  • Top Speed: 167.4 knots [192.6 mph or 310 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 142.6 knots [164 mph or 264 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 3
  • Numbers Produced: 1800+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1973-1996
  • Status: In active service

The Gazelle was the first helicopter in the world to sport a fenestron tail instead of the tail rotor. This tail inspired many later helicopter developments and many followed suit. The fenestron tail, while being effective in countering the torque of the main rotor, much like the conventional tail rotor, is also optimized for space. In ships and carriers with helicopter carriage, it becomes easier to use such choppers.

7. AgustaWestland AW139M

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The AW 139 is the second helicopter on the list from AgustaWestland and was manufactured post the merger of Agusta and Westland in 2000. Which is the first? That one will be coming next on the list and it is first because it was already in production during the merger, whereas, the AW139 was launched as a new model, post the merger.

The AW139 was introduced in 2003, although, development started back in 1997. Interestingly, this is one helicopter which is actually manufactured across ideologies. What do I mean? Usually, Russia hardly builds anything in collaboration with the NATO countries and of course, it is vice-versa as well. However, when it comes to the AW – 139, outside Italy, it is manufactured by America and by Russia, through the collaboration of AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters.

  • Name: AgustaWestland AW139
  • Manufacturer: Agusta and Westland
  • Top Speed: 167.4 knots [192.6 mph or 310 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 165.3 knots [190 mph or 306 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1-2
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 15
  • Numbers Produced: 800+
  • Year of Manufacture: 2003
  • Status: In active service and active production

The AW 139 is a medium transport helicopter and though can do a 310 kmph top speed, it is as fast as the Gazelle, which is a helicopter on the verge of being phased out. That basically talks about the technology improvement where a chopper can carry 15 people yet go as fast a chopper carrying only 5.

8. AgustaWestland AW101

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AgustaWestland AW101 started as a collaboration between Westland, Britain, and Agusta, Italy. It, therefore, had different call names such as EH 101 and Merlin. Since 2000 it is AW101 denoting the merger of Agusta and Westland.

  • Name: AgustaWestland AW101
  • Manufacturer: Agusta and Westland
  • Top Speed: 166.9 knots [191.9 mph or 309 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 150.2 knots [172.7 mph or 278 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 3-4
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 26 - 45
  • Numbers Produced: 140+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1999
  • Status: In active service and active production

Despite its troop carrying capacity rivaling that of the Chinook, it is only a medium-lift copter. This is because for accommodating a larger number of troops, the configuration of equipment being carried has to be changed. No doubt, it still remains a popular helicopter serving in multiple roles like military and civilian transport, search & rescue operations and combat mode.

9. Kamov Ka – 60

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The Ka – 60 is the military sibling of the Ka – 62. It is one helicopter which saw numerous delays leading to the first test flight in 1998 and then the second one in 2007. The program was actually launched in 1984. It is the civilian version (Ka-62) which is supposed to see the light of day soon. However, the KA-62 is not far behind with the Russian military already ordering around 100 of them and few other international clients also showing interest.

  • Name: Ka - 60
  • Manufacturer: Kamov
  • Top Speed: 166.4 knots [191.3 mph or 308 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 156.6 knots [180.1 mph or 290 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1-2
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 14 troopers
  • Numbers Produced: 120+ [Prototype + On Order]
  • Year of Manufacture: 2018
  • Status: In production

10. Sikorsky H – 92 Superhawk

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The H – 92 is the military version of the S – 92 and is a medium-lift military helicopter. It can carry 22 troops in one go and has few variants such as the CH – 148 Cyclone being developed for the Canadian forces.

  • Name: H – 92 Superhawk
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Top Speed: 165.3 knots [190.1 mph or 306 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 151.2 knots [173.9 mph or 280 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 19
  • Numbers Produced: 200+ [Civilian + Military]
  • Year of Manufacture: 1998
  • Status: In production and active service

This helicopter has one more variant which is in a way high profile. The variant is VH – 92 expected to replace the Marine One serving the Presidential fleet. How’s that for high profile!

11. Eurocopter AS565 Panther

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The Panther has been serving the French Navy since the 1980s. It is one military helicopter built from the popular civilian model AS365 Dauphin. Other than the French, the Panther serves the Brazilian, Indonesian and Israeli military.

  • Name: Eurocopter AS565 Panther
  • Manufacturer: Airbus Helicopters [known as Eurocopter earlier]
  • Top Speed: 165.3 knots [190.1 mph or 306 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 150.2 knots [172.7 mph or 278 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 10
  • Numbers Produced: 500+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1984
  • Status: In active service and active production

The Panther is a hybrid and can carry troops and attack at the same time; much like the Mi-35 which we saw under attack helicopters. However, unlike the Mi-24 [Mi-35] which was built for the dual role, the Panther was developed for transport because of its civilian genesis and then attack capabilities were added. The French Navy will be phasing out the Panther with the Eurocopter H 160M.

12. NH - 90

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The NH Industries’ NH90 is a helicopter developed for multirole in the Army and Navy. NH is a collaboration of Airbus, AgustaWestland and Fokker Aerostructures. The NH90 entered service in 2007.

  • Name: NH90
  • Manufacturer: NH Industries
  • Top Speed: 162 knots [186.3 mph or 300 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 150.2 knots [172.7 mph or 278 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2 pilots + 1 crew
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 20
  • Numbers Produced: 350+
  • Year of Manufacture: 2007
  • Status: In active service and active production

13. Mi - 26 Halo

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It would have been a bit disappointing if the list had concluded without taking the Mi – 26 into account. Fortunately for us, the Mi – 26 does make it to the list as the eighth fastest. However it is not for the speed that the Halo is famous for, it is its heavy lift capability. The Mi-26 goes one up even on the Chinook when it comes to heavy lift and is the world’s largest and most powerful helicopter.

  • Name: Mi – 26 Halo
  • Manufacturer: Rostvertol
  • Top Speed: 159.3 knots [183.2 mph or 295 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 137.7 knots [158.4 mph or 255 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2 pilots + 3 crew
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 90
  • Numbers Produced: 300+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1983
  • Status: In active service and active production

Look how small the Chinook looks

While discussing the Chinook we had mentioned that in an emergency lift, the Chinook had lifted 81 troops even when its rated lift was 55 troops. Well, in case of the Mi – 26 its rated lift is 90 troops, wonder what its emergency lift would be! The comparison is just to show how big the Mi – 26 is and still fast enough to make it to this list.

14. HAL Dhruv

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Dhruv is the indigenously produced Indian light helicopter. It is manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The Dhruv will be multi-variant and one of the variants, the Rudra, is being developed for the Indian Army. There will be a light combat helicopter too which will be capable of anti-tank, anti-ship or anti-submarine missiles, as per the role.

  • Name: Dhruv
  • Manufacturer: HAL
  • Top Speed: 159.3 knots [183.2 mph or 295 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 140.4 knots [161.5 mph or 260 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 12-14
  • Numbers Produced: 200+ [Civilian + Military]
  • Year of Manufacture: 1992
  • Status: In production and active service

Special Mention 1: Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King

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Well, the reason for the special mention of the Sea King is not for its rated manufactured speed, but for the modified speed. The U.S. Navy in early 1962 modified the Sea King to break the FAI 3 km, 100 km, 500 km and 1000 km helicopter speed records. The modified Sea King did an average of 210.6 mph.

  • Name: Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Modified Top Speed: 183.1 knots [210.6 mph or 339 kmph]
  • Top Speed: 144.2 knots [165.8 mph or 267 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 137.7 knots [158.4 mph or 255 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 4
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 3
  • Numbers Produced: 300+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1959 - 1970
  • Status: In active service. U.S. Navy retired in 2006

Special Mention 2: Aerospatiale SA321 Super Frelon

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The SA 321 is mentioned exactly for the reason why the Sea King is mentioned. In fact, it is related way more than that. The Super Frelon too was modified but to beat the Sea King’s record and it did in style. The modified Super Frelon set the new FAI absolute helicopter speed record in 1963, recording a speed of 217.7 mph.

  • Name: Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky
  • Modified Top Speed: 189.3 knots [217.7 mph or 350.5 kmph]
  • Top Speed: 148.5 knots [170.8 mph or 275 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 124.2 knots [142.9 mph or 230 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 5
  • Troop Carrying Capacity: 27
  • Numbers Produced: 300+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1962-1981
  • Status: In active service. Retired by U.S. Navy in 2006

Back to Base

Well, that completes our list of fastest helicopters in the world. The Super Frelon and Sea King would have been the number 1 and 2, respectively, if not for the fact that they were modified. It is hard to believe that a modified helicopter of the 60s was faster than a helicopter made in the 21st century (the H160M). The list has some titans like the Chinook and Mi – 26, both really powerful and both really fast; of course the video under Mi – 26 shows it lifting a Chinook, can’t get any better comparison than that. I hope readers enjoyed the list until we have the next list of interesting speed comparisons.

Which was an awesome helicopter to know about?

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Disclaimer: The videos added in the article belong to the users who have posted them on youtube. The Author does not own them nor validates that they belong to the ones who posted them on youtube. The videos are included to give some additional information about the subject being discussed.

© 2018 Savio Koman

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