The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne is one of the greatest what-ifs in helicopter history. This unique chopper was arguably decades ahead of its time, reaching an incredible top speed of 245 miles per hour. Although it never made it past the prototype stages, the Cheyenne's potential was obvious from the beginning.
The Cheyenne was originally intended to replace the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, which entered service in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the project's development was marred by multiple technical delays and a fatal crash during testing. The original planned production run was then cut from 600 to 375. Despite the fact that this futuristic helicopter packed a powerful punch — provided by a 30mm cannon and the BGM-71 TOW missile — it was cancelled.
But the Cheyenne didn't just have powerful weapons. The Cheyenne was also intended to carry an array of sophisticated sensors, including a laser rangefinder, infra-red systems, and night vision capabilities. Its navigation suite was also extensive, including a terrain-following radar, Doppler radar, and an inertial navigation system. The helicopter was capable of flying at high speed at altitudes as low as fifteen feet.
In essence, the Cheyenne, which had a maximum range of 629 miles, was more than just a killer of enemy tanks, it could also fulfill reconnaissance roles deep behind enemy lines. The Cheyenne could not only attack targets itself, but could also direct attacks from other Army assets, like artillery batteries.
While the Cheyenne never saw front-line service, its cancellation did lead to the funding and production of the universally loved A-10 Thunderbolt, as well as the competition that eventually produced the AH-64 Apache. Furthermore, the push-rotor that was the signature of this advanced recon/attack helicopter made a comeback on the S-97 Raider.
Learn more about the incredible capabilities of the Cheyenne in the video below.