Military helicopters play an integral role in sea, land, and air operations of modern armies. Attack helicopters first appeared in the Cold War when the tank became the key element to battlefield victory. Attack helicopters carry weapons such as autocannons, machine guns, rockets, and guided anti-tank missiles and are mainly used to engage targets in the air and on the ground, such as enemy infantry and armored fighting vehicles. These helicopters are fitted with third-generation anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) to help carry out attacks rapidly before being noticed. Countries across the globe are heavily investing in powerful attack helicopters developed through their own technology. The United States, Russia, India, and China top the list of the world's countries with the most attack helicopters.
Countries with the Highest Number of Attack Helicopters
The United States
The United States of America is the number one country on the globe when it comes to the development and deployment of attack helicopters. It was the pioneer country in developing attack helicopters and today has a fleet of 1,830 helicopters, which is the highest worldwide. The first development and deployment of attack helicopters commenced in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. The US army identified the need for a purpose-built attack helicopter with more speed and firepower hence benchmarking the project. The US continues to develop sophisticated attack helicopters to suit the rising needs in war zones.
The Russian Armed Forces are unquestionably the second strongest military in the world. It has an attack aircraft fleet of 1,438 helicopters that have been developed and procured from 1968. Russia first identified the need for attack helicopters during the Vietnam War and developed the Mil Mi-24 which is still one of the most successful attack helicopters used by many countries Air forces.
India is among the world’s emerging economies in regards to technological advancement. It was not until 1999 that the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force realized the need for high altitude attack helicopters after the occurrences of the Kargil War. Currently, India has developed and also procured 809 attack helicopters to mitigate the limitations of operating heavy consignments height and restricted civilian combat helicopters. Inventions such as the HAL Rudra enhanced multi-purpose high altitude combat operations.
In 1979, the Chinese military considered countering large armor formations by developing attack helicopters. It initially converted civilian helicopters into attack helicopters before procuring AH-1 Cobras from the US. During the Gulf War, the Chinese military identified the need to for attack helicopters that would enable it to defend itself against other helicopters and aircrafts. China has invested heavily in its military attack helicopters and has developed and procured 579 attack helicopters.
Modernization Programs of Attack Helicopters
Most countries have drastically modernized their airborne attack and defense units by upgrading their attack helicopters fleet. The technological advancement of associated components and weapons created a need for upgraded platforms in war zones. The ability of attack helicopters to carry lethal weapon systems allows them to instantly destroy multiple enemy targets concurrently while realizing maximum destruction ratios before being discovered by the enemy forces.