Since the first-time mankind watched the birds in flight, they have spent hours of dreaming how to fly. During the mid 1500's, Italian inventor Leonardo Da Vinci made drawings of an ornithopter flying machine. Some say it was those drawings that inspired the modern helicopter.
French inventors Launoy and Bienvenue, in 1784, created a toy with a rotary-wing that could lift and fly. The flight of that toy helicopter proved the principle of helicopter flight. Paul Cornu was the first to attempt flight in a helicopter in 1907; that flight was not successful. In 1924, another French inventor, Etienne Oehmichen built and flew a helicopter just over 300 feet.
The modern-day helicopter has come a long way from the early days. The true attack helicopter got its baptism under fire in the jungles of Vietnam. What exactly is an attack helicopter you might be wondering? It’s a military helicopter, and its primary role is to engage targets on the ground like enemy infantry and armored vehicles.
Military attack helicopters are also called gunships because they are laden with a vast array of heavy armaments. Some of the weapons these gunships use are, autocannons, machine-guns, rockets and guided missiles like the Hellfire. Many of them can also carry air-to-air missiles, these are primarily for self-defense against an enemy gunship.
The roles of the gunships used today are, to provide direct and accurate close air support for ground troops and anti-tank support to devastate enemy armor. Gunships are also used to supplement lighter helicopters in an armed scout role. It’s said, in combat, the attack helicopter will destroy 17 times its own production cost before it's destroyed.
The 1990s were viewed as a coming-of-age for military attack helicopters. The AH-64 Apache was used extensively during the first Gulf with awesome results. The Apache fired the first shots in that war and destroyed enemy early-warning systems and SAM sites with their Hellfire missiles. They were also very successful in their roles in attacks against enemy armor in Iraq.
Since this Examiner is not an expert on gunships, some help in determining the top 10 was found on the Military Channel’s website. The photo of the MI-24 Hind is from the Igor collection found on Wikipedia.org.