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How Fast Can a Helicopter Fly? Top 10 Civilian & Military Comparisons


Being able to travel fast in a helicopter is always at the top of most passengers ‘Want List’. Getting to the destination fast, being able to land in confined locations, and doing it smooth and quiet presents some great challenges to civilian helicopter designers.

With the military helicopters, making a helicopter fast is also at the top of the wish list, but then add on the various multi-role capabilities and weapons systems, getting the helicopters to go as fast as they do is some real engineering wizardry!

The Top Speed for most single-engine helicopters is around 150 kts or 173 mph. Most will not reach this but instead cruise around 110 kts or 127 mph. The Top Speed for most Twin engine helicopters is around 160 kts or 185 mph. The world record holder G-LYNX flew at 223 kts or 257mph!

This comparison was written to give you the best quality, accurate content for the helicopters currently in production today. Each helicopter was researched from the actual manufacturer’s data and included where applicable. You will be able to find more information on each helicopter from the links included.

The Maximum Speeds this comparison is based on are the helicopters Max Cruise Speed as this was the most common speed given by the manufacturers, not Vne. A lot of the military helicopters will not have a published Vne. Only the Flight Manuals will have these numbers.

You may feel some aircraft have been left out and this may be because I could not find any credible evidence of speed data and this is not just a Wikipedia Copy&Paste like all the other comparisons.

This comparison also only focuses on the ‘Traditional’ helicopter as the new breed of ‘Compound, Hybrid or Tilt Rotor’ helicopters have an unfair advantage and are for a future comparison article.

Enjoy!

Top 10 Fastest Production Civilian Helicopters

10. HAL ALH MkIII DHRUV

Source: Aztonyx

Designed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited this 5.5 Tonne Twin-Engine, Multi-Role helicopter is the civilian version of the LCH (Light Combat Helicopter) for the Indian Armed Forces.

Orders for this civilian model are increasing with from the Sarang ALH Display Team showcasing the helicopters capabilities at airshows worldwide since 2003.

Manufacturer:HAL
Engines:2x Safran Ardiden 1H1
Engine Power:1,384 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1992
Max Cruise Speed143 kts
165 mph
265 kph
Max Vne Speed158 kts
181 mph
292 kph

HAL ACH MkIII DHRUV Website


9. Airbus H155

Previously the EC155 B1 from Eurocopter, the H155 from Airbus Helicopters is a Medium, Twin-Engined helicopter used in a variety of roles where high speed is welcomed.

Used all over the globe by EMS, Law Enforcement, Private and Business owners the H155 is latest generation building on the legendary Dauphin history.

Manufacturer:Airbus Helicopters
Engines:2x Safran Arriel 2C2 Turboshaft
Engine Power:935 hp ea
Maiden Flight:1997
Max Cruise Speed144 kts
165 mph
266 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

Airbus H155 Website


8. Leonardo AW169

Source: Adrian

The AW169 is the latest 4.5 tonne Twin-Engine Helicopter from Leonardo.

Designed for Luxury VIP, EMS and Law Enforcement this helicopter may be at the smaller end of Leonardo’s range but it packs a punch.

Latest generation avionics and engines and the only helicopter in its size group to come equipped with an on-board APU to ensure the highest levels of comfort without the rotors turning.

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x P&W PW210A Series
Turboshaft
Engine Power:1,000 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2012
Max Cruise Speed145 kts
167 mph
268 kph
Max Vne Speed145 kts
167 mph
268 kph

Leonardo AW169 Website


7. Airbus H175

The H175 from Airbus is a world record setting Light-Medium Multi-role Helicopter.

With its main role aimed at Off-Shore Oil&Gas transportation this helicopter is also seeing use in Search & Rescue, Law Enforcement and VIP Government contracts.

With a maximum seating for 18 passengers on board getting to the destination at 150 kts does not take long in this helicopter.

Manufacturer:Airbus Helicopters
Engines:2x P&W PT6C-67E Series Turboshaft
Engine Power:1,775 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2009
Max Cruise Speed150 kts
172 mph
277 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

Airbus H175 Website


6. Sikorsky S92A

The S92A has become the mule of the Off-shore market. A large cabin with high speed and long range has solidified this aircraft as the ‘Go-To’ machine for Airlines, Search & Rescue and VVIP Ownership.

The high-caliber technology used in every part of this helicopter is one of the reasons why it is the top of the list for many large operators, but with a price tag around $27M you better have deep pockets!

Manufacturer:Sikorsky Helicopters
Engines:2x General Electric CT7-8A
Turboshaft
Engine Power:2,520 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1998
Max Cruise Speed151 kts
174 mph
280 kph
Max Vne Speed165 kts
190 mph
306 kph

Sikorsky S92A Website


5. Airbus H160

The latest helicopter from Airbus, this ACH160 is the Corporate VVIP model in the range.

One of the most stunning helicopters ever developed this new fully composite helicopter is crammed with the latest technology including Airbus’ Blue Edge Main Rotor Blades. Their most efficient and quietest rotor blade ever developed.

Due for initial customer delivery in early 2020 this helicopter is going to be raising the bar for years to come.

Manufacturer:Airbus Helicopters
Engines:2x Safran Arrano 1A Turboshaft
Engine Power:1,280 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2015
Max Cruise Speed155 kts
178 mph
278 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

Airbus H160 Website


4. Leonardo AW189

This all-weather, long-range 8.5 tonne helicopter from Leonardo is their latest Super-Medium addition to their fleet.

Flexible cabin configurations make this a perfect multi-role helicopter whether it is in Off-Shore Transportation, Search & Rescue or VVIP Operations.

Long legs and high speed make this a great utility platform.

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x General Electric CT7-2E1
Engine Power:2,000 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2011
Max Cruise Speed155 kts
178 mph
287 kph
Max Vne Speed158 kts
181 mph
292 kph

Leonardo AW189 Website


3. Leonardo AW109 GrandNew

Source: James

Leonardo’s latest Light-Twin offering built on the back of the hugely popular A109 series started by Agusta back in 1976.

This modern multi-role helicopter is now certified for Single-Pilot IFR making it a great personal or corporate helicopter when speed is of the essence.

With seating for up to 7 passengers this Cat A, Class 1 helicopter is a favorite!

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x P&W PW207C
Engine Power:735 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2015
Max Cruise Speed156 kts
180 mph
289 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

Leonardo AW109 GrandNew Website


2. Russian Helicopters KA-62

Source: Doomych

Russian Helicopters latest offering to the Medium Class civilian helicopter market.

This fast, multi-role helicopter was designed to meet international standards for Cargo Transport, Offshore Transport, Search & Rescue and VVIP operations.

Utilizing the latest materials, engines and avionics this sleek all-weather helicopter has some tough competition!

Manufacturer:Russian Helicopters
Engines:2x Safran Ardiden 3G
Engine Power:1,776 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2017
Max Cruise Speed157 kts
180 mph
290 kph
Max Vne Speed167 kts
193 mph
310 kph

Russian Helicopters KA-62 Website


1. Leonardo AW139

Source: James

One of the most popular Twin-Engined helicopters in the world. Not only does this machine boast fast cruising speeds, but full Cat A, all-weather IFR capabilities.

Used all over the globe in Off-Shore Transportation, EMS, Law Enforcement and VVIP operations this is my favorite helicopter I have ever flown.

Easy to fly, smooth and capable allows any pilot a stress-free flight.

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x P&W PT6C-67C Turboshaft
Engine Power:1,100 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2001
Max Cruise Speed165 kts
190 mph
306 kph
Max Vne Speed167 kts
193 mph
310 kph

Leonardo AW139 Website


Top 10 Fastest Production Military Helicopters

10. KA-52 ‘Alligator’

This unique Contra-rotating reconnaissance and combat helicopter is a tank & armored vehicle destroying machine.

With the latest aviation and weapons technologies this helicopter is seeing action with the Russian and Egyptian Armed Forces.

With the manufacturer stating it has ‘Shock-Absorbing Ejector Seats’ it is definitely a helicopter to further inspect!

Manufacturer:Russian Helicopters
Engines:2x Klimov VK-2500 Turboshaft
Engine Power:2,400 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1997
Max Cruise Speed140 kts
162 mph
260 kph
Max Vne Speed162 kts
186 mph
300 kph

Russian Helicopters KA-52 Website


9. Мi-28N ‘Night Hunter’

Source: Alan Wilson

This advanced attack helicopter has been designed to seek out an destroy enemy targets in all weather conditions.

Built with combat survivability in mind this helicopter is designed to take a beating while unleashing hell on its targets.

The Mi-28N & its export version, Mi-28NE is in service with the Iraqi, Algerian and Russian Armed Forces as well as the Russian Air Force Berkuty Flight Display Team.

Manufacturer:Russian Helicopters
Engines:2x Klimov VK-2500-02 Turboshaft
Engine Power:2,200 hp ea
Maiden Flight:1982
Max Cruise Speed143 kts
166 mph
265 kph
Max Vne Speed162 kts
186 mph
300 kph

Russian Helicopters Mi-28N Website


8. Leonardo AW101 ‘Merlin’

Source: Peng Chan

The AW101 is the latest highly versatile helicopter from Leonardo. Building on the very successful EH101 this helicopter is used by over 14 different Armed Forces in both land-based & sea-based operations

Featuring 3 powerful engines, highly advanced avionics, composite fuselage, this helicopter is fast, capable and quiet due to its ‘BERP‘ rotor blades.

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:3x General Electric CT7-8E
Turboshaft
Engine Power:2,527 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1982
Max Cruise Speed145 kts
172 mph
277 kph
Max Vne Speed167 kts
192 mph
309 kph

Leonardo AW101 Website


7. Boeing AH-64E ‘Apache’

The Apache is one of the most recognizable attack helicopters in the world.

The E model is the latest generation of this formidable helicopter with upgraded engines, avionics and weapons systems this latest version is a true soldiers friend or foe!

In use in over 15 countries this fast, invisible attack platform is by far one of the most deadly helicopters in the world today.

Manufacturer:Boeing
Engines:2x General Electric T700-GE-701D
Engine Power:1,890 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1975
Max Cruise Speed+150 kts
173 mph
278 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

Boeing AH-64E Website


6. Leonardo AW109M

This fast, agile multi-engine, multi-role helicopter from Leonardo is a popular, cost effective helicopter.

Its small footprint make it perfect for use aboard naval ships while also allowing it to provide discreet reconnaissance during land-borne operations.

Its use in over 20 countries shows the versatility of this helicopter.

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x P&W PW206C
Engine Power:561 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1971
Max Cruise Speed154 kts
177 mph
285 kph
Max Vne Speed168 kts
193 mph
311 kph

Leonardo AW109M Website


5. Leonardo AW149M

Source: Airwolfhound

The AW149M is built on the success of its civilian partner the AW189 and its transport capabilities in the Off-Shore sector.

With 7 cabin configurations available straight from the factory to support every kind of mission this is a true multi-role helicopter.

State-of-the-art avionics make this all weather helicopter a true pilots machine and able to carry 16 fully loaded troops over 500 nm at 155 kts is no mean feat either!

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x General Electric CT7-2E1 Turboshaft
Engine Power:2,000 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2009
Max Cruise Speed155 kts
178 mph
287 kph
Max Vne Speed169 kts
194 mph
313 kph

Leonardo AW149M Website


4. Boeing CH-47F ‘Chinook’

One of the most globally recognized helicopters on the battlefield this latest generation Chinook from Boeing stretches the boundaries even more

Whether it is carrying troops, slinging heavy equipment or being used as a MedEvac ship this beast is a true multi-role helicopter.

For saying how big this helicopter is, the speed it can move at is phenomenal, hence why its a very popular troop MedEvac helicopter.

Manufacturer:Boeing
Engines:2x Lycoming T55-GA-714A Turboshaft 
Engine Power:4,700 hp each
Maiden Flight:2001
Max Cruise Speed157 kts
181 mph
291 kph
Max Vne Speed163 kts
188 mph
302 kph

Boeing CH-47F Website


3. Sikorsky S70i ‘Blackhawk’

The S70i Blackhawk from Sikorsky is the international military version of the ubiquitous UH-60 Blackhawk.

The S70i is assembled in Poland by PZL Mielec under license from Sikorsky.

The Blackhawk is one of the most widely used military helicopters in the world and partly due to its high cruise speed!

Manufacturer:Sikorsky
Engines:2x General Electric GE-T701D
Engine Power:1,940 shp each
Maiden Flight:1974
Max Cruise Speed160 kts
184 mph
296 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

Sikorsky S70i Website


2. NH90

Source: Ibex73

Built by a European consortium of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo & Fokker Aerostructures to meet the requirement from NATO for a multi-role medium-lift military helicopter.

In service with 13 Countries Armed Forces in either as a Naval or Tactical Transport Helicopter.

This helicopter leads the technological race as it was the first true Fly-By-Wire helicopter and boy is it fast!

Manufacturer:NHIndustries
Engines:2 x Turbomecca RTM 322-01/9A
Engine Power:2,417 shp each
Maiden Flight:1995
Max Cruise Speed162 kts
186 mph
300 kph
Max Vne SpeedNot Given

NH90 Website


1. Leonardo AW139M

Source: Airwolfhound

Taking the top spot for both the fastest production civilian and military helicopters the AW139 is a fantastic aircraft.

After seeing the success of the AW139 in the civilian sector the military version was released in 2011 as a versatile Intermediate Twin helicopter.

With such a wide mission-capable platform its no wonder this helicopter is in service with over 45 countries!

Manufacturer:Leonardo
Engines:2x P&W PT6C-67C Turboshaft
Engine Power:1,100 shp ea
Maiden Flight:2011
Max Cruise Speed165 kts
190 mph
306 kph
Max Vne Speed167 kts
193 mph
310 kph

Leonardo AW139M Website


Current Fastest Helicopter In The World

Westland Helicopters Lynx

On August 11, 1986 a modified Lynx helicopter G-LYNX broke the world speed record over a 15 km course with a top speed of 257 kts and an average of 216 kts.

The Lynx has been developed into over 40 variants and has been used by over 17 Armed Forces and stays in production with its latest evolution the AW159 ‘Wildcat’.

G-LYNX still holds the record to this day!

Manufacturer:Westland Helicopters
Engines:2x Rolls Royce Gem with Methanol Injection
Engine Power:1,200 shp ea
Maiden Flight:1971
Max Cruise Speed216 kts
249 mph
400 kph
Max Vne Speed223 kts
257 mph
413 kph

Leonardo G-LYNX 30th Anniversary Brochure

To Finish

The top speed of most helicopters is around the 300 kph mark at this time mainly due to the aerodynamic drag caused by the main rotor blade tips reaching the speed of sound as they rotate and creating shockwaves that introduce huge drag.

As you may be able to see in a few of the photos, manufacturers are designing main rotor blades with odd-shaped blade tips to help overcome this, but this can only do so much.

For true speed in a helicopter we are starting to see huge developments in the Hybrid, Compound, and Tilt-Rotor designs that are really pushing the speed limits.

Having flown in the AW139 it is a great feeling to be cruising close to 160 kts but then it really hurts when jumping into the AS350 with a Utility Basket and being only able to push it to 105 kts!

Further Reading

If you found this article interesting and would like to keep reading, I highly recommend the following articles from my blog:

Rick James

I am an aviation nut! I'm an ATP-rated helicopter pilot & former flight instructor with over 3500 hours spanning 3 countries and many different flying jobs. I love aviation and everything about it. I use these articles to pass on cool facts and information to you whether you are a pilot or just love aviation too! If you want to know more about me, just click on my picture!

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