The 10 Most Popular Combat Helicopters in the World

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The 10 Most Popular Combat Helicopters in the World UTC’s Sikorsky division builds the world’s most popular combat helo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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United Technologies UH-60 Black Hawk The most popular combat chopper on the planet, Sikorsky's Black Hawk boasts an 18% global market share. That's more than Lockheed Martin’s F-16 commands in the fighter jet market. More Black Hawks are flying today (3,325) than there are F-16s and F-18s combined. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Data source: Flightglobal Insight World Air Forces 2014

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Mil Mi-8 Hip First introduced in 1961, Russia's most popular whirlybird had a 13 year head start on the Black Hawk, but still sits in second place with an 11% market share. And its share is sinking. Only 2,160 Hips are flying today, 168 fewer than last year. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Textron Bell UH-1 Huey A certified Vietnam Vet, Bell's Huey is 58 years young, and still going strong. Out of 16,000 units produced, 1,508 remain in service -- giving Huey an 8% market share.   Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Boeing AH-64 Apache Moving up one spot in this year’s survey is the ever-popular Boeing Apache. Around the globe, 1,008 Apaches are now in service, giving this all-star attack chopper a 5% market share. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Boeing CH-47 Chinook The undisputed king of vertical lift, when troops and cargo absolutely, positively, must get there faster than overnight -- customers opt for Boeing's Chinook. 939 units in service. 5% market share. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Mil Mi-24 Hind Dropping two spots in this year’s survey is Russia’s Soviet-era Mi-24 attack helicopter. The Mi-24 still holds a 5% market share globally, but... With only 868 units still in service – 12% fewer than last year – this chopper is falling be-”Hind” its rivals. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Textron Bell OH-58 Kiowa The U.S. Army plans to retire its Kiowa fleet – but if it does, the helo should find plenty of willing second-hand buyers. With 758 units in service, Kiowa commands 4% of the market. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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MD Helicopters MD 500 First developed as a light observation bird for the U.S. Army, the MD 500 found a ready market abroad as well. With 681 units in service, it’s gaining popularity – and market share, which now stands at 4%. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Textron Bell 412 How popular is Bell's 412? Popular enough that in the Philippines, it's the equivalent of America's "Marine One," ferrying presidents from Point A to Point B. Globally, 675 units remain in service, tied with the MD 500 at 4% market share. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Aerospatiale SA 342 Gazelle Aerospatiale’s (not to be confused with the teeny-bopper store) Gazelle makes its 2014 debut on this list with 556 units in service, and 3% market share. After 41 years in service in theaters from Rwanda to Lebanon to Iraq, the French bird has finally come into its own. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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In the helicopter market, as in the fighter jet market, market share is crucial. It is hard to overstate the importance of market share. The more helicopters a company builds, and sells, the broader the “base” over which it can spread research & development costs – and the lower the price it can charge per helo. And the lower the cost per ‘copter ... the easier it is to sell more of them, growing market share even further.

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United Technologies has sold more than 4,500 Black Hawks! And nearly 75% of them are still flying today – and incidentally, still generating maintenance and parts revenue for UTC. That’s more than Lockheed Martin can say about its 4,500 F-16s. At an estimated cost of just $20 million apiece, the Black Hawk costs nearly twice as much as competing ‘copters from Russia. But it’s less than UTC would have to charge at lower production volumes. The relatively high price also has another nice benefit for shareholders: It helps United Technologies maintain a beefy 9% profit margin.

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9% net profit. That’s more than Boeing gets. And more than Textron, too. And now, United Technologies is ramping up its newest project.

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Marine One. The President’s Helicopter. Building on the successful Sikorsky S-92 “Superhawk” airframe – itself an evolution of from the UH-60 Black Hawk – UTC will design the next-generation of helicopters “good enough to fly a President.” A job it’s performed with honor since 1957. The U.S. Government will pay United Technologies at least $1.24 billion for the project, and order as many as 21 helicopters for the Executive fleet.

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For the past 57 years, only one company has been considered good enough to build helicopters for the President. United Technologies. Shouldn’t it be good enough for you, too?

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