Born to fight: the best attack helicopters in the world
The "grandfather" of all modern attack helicopters was the Bell-209, which received the army designation AH-1 Huey Cobra. In 1960, the US Defense Department set the task of creating a specialized “turntable” of fire support: with two crew members (pilot and weapon operator), increased flight speed compared to conventional helicopters, and equipped with machine guns and unguided missiles. Due to the widespread use of components and assemblies from the UH-1 multipurpose helicopter, Bell already developed the AH-1 attack aircraft by 1965, which began to enter service in June 1967 and went to Vietnam the same year.
It was the Vietnam War that showed the indispensability of attack helicopters in solving many problems that multi-purpose machines could not cope with. Thanks to the reservation of the cockpit and vital components, the AH-1 could act directly above the battlefield without fear of small arms fire. At the same time, he himself could deliver precision strikes, which attackers and bombers were not able to do.
Over time, many modifications of the AH-1 appeared. In addition to the army, he was called up to serve in the navy and still remains in service with many countries. Despite the fact that the main attack helicopter of the US Army has been AH-64 Apache for many years, the most advanced modification of the AH-1 - Viper, still serves in the Marine Corps.
US use of attack helicopters in Vietnam was carefully studied by Soviet specialists. The new type of rotorcraft and their tactics were highly appreciated, but the USSR had its own vision. Our “turntable” was to become not only shock, but also transport: a kind of flying BMP, capable of not only inflicting a fire defeat on the enemy, but also landing.
In 1968, work began on the creation of the Mi-24 helicopter (factory index V-24), which, like its American opponent AH-1 Huey Cobra, borrowed many components and assemblies from its closest relative - Mi-8. Soviet designers initially developed a twin-engine helicopter, while the AH-1 was produced with one engine for several years, which negatively affected its survivability.
The first Mi-24, taken into service in 1971, did not have the most successful cockpit, in which the pilot and weapons operator sat together. For some reason, the American experience was not taken into account, and soon the helicopter had to be modernized, seating the pilot and operator in separate cabins. The aircraft had a huge number of modifications and was supplied to many countries - both the allies of the USSR and those entering its orbit of influence. He had to fight a lot in the territory of the former Soviet Union. Currently, the Mi-24 is the second largest attack helicopter in the world and is still the main fire support helicopter of the Russian army.
Despite the satisfactory characteristics of the AH-1 and the possibilities for its further modernization, it became clear to the American military in the early 1970s that the attack helicopter should possess a number of qualities that the AH-1 did not have, and even a very serious modernization would hardly have helped the latter . In accordance with the Advanced Attack Helicopter program, the following requirements were put forward for a promising helicopter: improved cabin and key assembly reservations, placement of a 30-mm bow gun on a movable turret, engines spaced apart on the sides of the fuselage, improved navigation equipment, reduction of infrared radiation and noise level.
As a result of tests carried out in 1975-1976, an AH-64 Apache attack company from Hughes, which showed better characteristics than the competitor AH-63 from Bell, was adopted. The latter was, in essence, a rethinking of the AH-1, while the AH-64 was a fundamentally new development, which became a kind of "classic" of a fire support helicopter.