DVD Review: “The West’s Combat Helicopters”

Title: “The West’s Combat Helicopters”

Series: Modern Combat Aircraft

Producer: ArtsMagic DVD

Rating:  ★★★★

The second installment of the ArtsMagic’s “Modern Combat Aircraft” DVD Series (previously produced by Command Vision Ltd.) is “The West’s Combat Helicopters.” Originally produced in 1987, again, it is dated, but still highly informative.

It is another itemized profile of the major Western helicopters from the very end of the Cold War. There is an emphasis on several European types, including the MBB BO 105, Agusta A-129 Mangusta and Westland Lynx, although the flagship American helicopters are very well represented, including the UH-1 Huey, AH-1 HueyCobra, UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache.

Chris Chant is back once again with his unmistakable writing and narration, and the documentary shows a bit more of an international flavor than its predecessor, which occasionally seemed a tad U.S.-heavy in its lineup of aircraft profiles.

Most of the helicopters profiled here are of the utility type, although the versatility of the aircraft shown is on full display, especially the European machines.

It also seems as though the stock footage used was from a number of manufacturer promotional videos. Several of the choppers included in the documentary either never went into production or were not ordered in large numbers., which does make this show interesting for its rare footage.

For example, the McDonnell-Douglas Defender was never put into mass production, but the video and specifications of the helicopter (a wide array of ordinance, FLIR, mast-mounted sight) made you think that you could buy one from Costco for your neighborhood watch. In addition, there is promotional footage of Sikorsky’s H-76 Eagle, the privately-funded military variant of their S-76 civil machine, which evidently went the way of the equally ill-fated F-20 Tigershark.

My favorite part: There is a sequence during the BO 105 profile where the helicopter’s pilot stalks a tank in a simulated combat sequence. The music from what I believe was the original film is hilarious. It reminds me of a relatively low-budget spy movie. It almost gets out of hand as you see tank after helpless tank blow up on screen. Total carnage!

Aircraft profiled:

Bell UH-1 Huey
Agusta A-109A*
McDonnell Douglas Defender
Aerospatiale SA 342 Gazelle
MBB BO 105 (PAH-1)
Westland Lynx
Westland Lynx 3
Aerospatiale SA 356M Panther* (with an inside look at its construction)
Agusta A-129 Mangusta
Sikosrsky UH-60 Blackhawk
Sikorsky H-76 Eagle
Bell AH-1 HueyCobra
McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache (with an interesting look at the Apache’s combat systems at the time, including TADS)
LHX – A look at the technologies studies at the time that led up to the ill-fated Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, including the S-75 and S.H.A.D.O.W.)

* – Edited out on “Wings”

I’m not an overly big helicopter guy, but this was a solid piece. Considering the combat helicopter landscape has not changed dramatically over the past twenty-five years – many of the aircraft profiled in this doc are still around today, at least as far as we know – there’s still quite a bit of relevance even today. That is enough to bump it up to a 4/5.

You can purchase your DVD copy of “The West’s Combat Helicopters” here.

Amazon Description: This volume features the greatest of the west’s helicopters such as the Bell UH-1 Huey, the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and the McDonnel Douglas AH-64 Apache. With a detailed script by leading aviation authority Christopher Chant, this is essential vieweing for all aviation and millitary enthusiasts.