We often see letters together with any helicopter name: SH-60B Seahawk Wood , AH-1W Cobra Wood, Comanche RAH66 , Chinook CH47, etc. But what the hell do they stand for? Well, I read this article from wiseGeek.com and is worth reposting!
I have learned that military helicopters are divided according to their primary uses. The United States Military, has a universal system of classification that allows easy recognition of a helicopter’s purpose by its designation. That is where the letters become useful! The types of helicopters most in use are:
A – Attack
C – Cargo transport
H – Search and rescue
R – Reconnaissance
S – Anti-submarine warfare
M – Multi-mission or Multi-role
T – Trainer
U – Utility
Attack military helicopters, or AH, receive the greatest amount of recognition. Take for example the AH-1G HueyCobra – it could loiter over the target area three times as long, and had an improved armament system over previous gun ships. It was the first Marine helo built and used purely as a gunship in the Vietnam War from 1971 through the end of the conflict .
Another amazing aircraft that conducts rear, close and shaping missions, as well as distributed operations and precision strikes against relocatable targets is the Apache Longbow AH-64. It provides armed reconnaissance when required in day, night, obscured battlefield and adverse weather conditions.
Training military helicopters, or TH, are used for various training exercises. The TH-67 Creek is a state-of-the-art helicopter used for initial entry rotary wing training. It replaced the aging UH-1H, which had been the Army’s interim trainer since the 1988 retirement of the TH-55 Osage. In the tactical portion of pilot training, the OH-58 Kiowa is still the helicopter used. But for initial entry rotary wing flight instruction, the TH-67 is the aircraft of choice for a new generation of Army aviators.
The most recognizable of the cargo transport military helicopters is the double rotor CH-46 Sea Knight. The CH-47 Chinook is another helicopter used primarily for trooping and for carrying internal and/or underslung loads.
Multi-role military helicopters are arguably the most useful type. Helicopters like the MH-60G are able to complete infiltration missions like supplying special forces and performing under any weather or light conditions while providing its own protection. The MH-60L is a highly upgraded Blackhawk that can be adapted to an attack helicopter when needed. The MH-53J Pave Low III heavy-lift helicopter is the largest, most powerful and technologically advanced transport helicopter in the US Air Force inventory.