MH-6 Little Bird

MH-6 Little Bird

The Boeing A/MH-6M Little Bird (nicknamed the Killer Egg), and its attack variant AH-6, are light helicopters used for special operations in the United States Army. Originally based on a modified OH-6A, it was later based on the MD 500E, with a single five-bladed main rotor. The newest version, the MH-6M, is based on the MD 530F and has a single, six-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor.

Development

The OH-6 was started in 1960, when the U.S. Army issued Technical Specification 153 for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) that could perform personnel transport, escort and attack missions, casualty evacuation, and observation. Twelve companies took part in the competition and Hughes Tool Company’s Aircraft Division submitted the Model 369. Two designs, those submitted by Fairchild-Hiller and Bell, were selected as finalists by the Army-Navy design competition board, but the Army later included the helicopter from Hughes as well.[citation needed]

The first Model 369 prototype flew on 27 February 1963. Originally designated the YHO-6A under the army’s designation system, the aircraft was redesignated the YOH-6A under the Department of Defense’s new joint system in 1962. Five prototypes were built, each fitted with a 252 shp (188 kW) Allison T63-A-5A engine,and delivered to the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker, Alabama to compete against the other 10 prototype aircraft submitted by Bell and Fairchild-Hiller. In the end, Hughes won the competition and the Army awarded a contract for production in May 1965. The initial order was for 714 aircraft, but that was later increased to 1,300 with an option to buy another 114. Seventy helicopters were built in the first month.[citation needed]

This agile, unarmed helicopter is outfitted with outboard “benches” designed to ferry up to three commandos on each side. There is also a gunship variant, the AH-6. Painted black for nighttime operations, this small aircraft can conduct rapid insertions and extractions of special operations forces into areas its larger brother, the MH-60 Black Hawk, cannot.

Variants

  • AH-6C: Special Operations attack version. Modified OH-6A to carry weapons and operate as a light attack aircraft for the 160th SOAR(A).
  • EH-6E: Special Operations electronic warfare, command-post version.
  • MH-6E: Improved attack helicopter used by US Army special forces units, and stealthy light attack and transport helicopter for US Army special forces units.
  • AH-6F: Special Operations attack version.
  • AH-6G: Special Operations attack version.
  • MH-6H: Special Operations version.
  • AH/MH-6J:Improved special operations transport and attack versions. Updated light attack helicopter based on the MD 530MG and equipped with an improved engine, FLIR, and a GPS/inertial navigation system.
  • AH/MH-6M: Also occasionally referred to as the Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB), it is a highly modified version of the MD 530 series commercial helicopter. All MH-6 helicopters to be modernized to MH-6M standard by 2015.
  • A/MH-6X: An AH/MH-6M MELB helicopter modified for use as a UAV. It builds upon experience gained through development of the Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) Demonstrator, which is a civil MD 530F modified for autonomous UAV flight. Boeing has announced that this version is marketed solely to other nations, not the U.S., for use as a low-cost attack helicopter. However, Boeing is planning to enter it in the U.S. Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program.
  • KUS-VH: Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) have developed an armed, unmanned version of the Little Bird with Korean armed forces in mind. The KUS-VH is unlike Boeing’s H-6U Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) in that, the former is completely unmanned while Boeing’s ULB may be operated either manned or unmanned. The vehicle can be controlled from a ground station. However, Gareth Jennings of Jane’s International Defense Review suggests the platform may be employed in a ‘manned-unmanned teaming’ (MUM-T) system alongside the AH-64E in a scouting/recon role to facilitate ‘over the horizon’ maneuvers to flush out enemy forces. Further, the Republic of Korea has over 150 MH-6 Little Bird’s which can be, on request, converted to the design.

Specifications (MH-6)

Crew 2
Capacity up to 6 passengers for MH-6 / 1,509 lb (684 kg)
Length (rotors running)
32 ft 7.2 in (9.936 m)
Height 8 ft 9 in (2.67 m)
Main rotor diameter 27 ft 4.8 in (8.352 m)
Loaded weight  
Empty weight 1,591 lb (722 kg)
Max take off weight 3,100 lb (1,406 kg)
Maximum speed (Vne)
152 kn (175 mph, 282 km/h)
Cruising speed at sea level
135 kn (155 mph, 250 km/h)
Ascent speed at sea level
2,061 ft/min (10.47 m/s)
Ceiling in service
18,700 ft (5,700 m)
Passable distance at sea level with standard reserve
232 nmi (267 mi, 430 km)
Powerplant 1 × Allison T63-A-5A or T63-A-700 turboshaft engine, 425 hp (317 kW) for take-off

Operators

Related Armament

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