MH-6 Little Bird
Two special operations versions of the OH-6A are the AH-6C "Little Bird" armed variant, and the MH-6B transport/utility version, which can carry up to six personnel for quick insertion and extraction missions. The MH-6 Little Bird is the only light assault helicopter in the Army inventory. It provides assault helicopter support to special operations forces and can be armed with a combination of guns and folding fin aerial rockets. It has an unrefueled range of 250 nautical miles. This special operations gunship variant of the MD 500/530 is operated by the United States Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (The Night Stalkers).
The MH-6H assault transport version of the Little Bird fleet is nearly identical to the AH-6, except that it is designed to carry troops and has no provisions for armaments. Two or three troops can be carried internally and up to six externally on fold down platforms. Can also be fitted with a fast-rope system, caving ladders, STABO rigs or a winch.
MH-6J / MH-6M Mission-Enhanced Little Bird [MELB]
The aircraft are being upgraded under the same Mission-Enhanced Little Bird [MELB] program as the AH-6s. The MH-6J insertion and extraction transport, based on the MD-530F, feature a more powerful engine and improved avionics, including an embedded GPS/inertial navigation system and forward-looking infrared (FLIR).
The AH-6J has a maximum takeoff weight of 3,950 pounds. The MH-6M mission enhanced little bird has a gross weight of 4,700 pounds. The stretched Little Bird combines the six-bladed rotor system of the MD600 commercial helicopter with a noise-reducing four-bladed tail rotor and a mix of engine and transmission improvements. The concurrent weapons and digitization management upgrade includes a 1553 databus and single-point data entry for navigation, flight plans and weapons management. The new AH/MH-6M (Mission Enhanced Little Bird, or MELB) helicopters are equipped with the system direct from the modification production line.
Although the Army wants to expand its elite helicopter fleet, it is trying to reduce the overall number of aircraft it operates. The Army is on course to concentrate on three aircraft: the MD MH-6M Little Bird, the Boeing MH-47G Chinook and the Sikorsky MH-60M Black Hawk. Currently, units operate six types of aircraft. The Army plans to keep the fleet size for the A/MH-6 Little Birds constant at 45 aircraft.
Goodrich's Engine Control Systems facility in West Hartford, Connecticut, is the prime supplier of the Army's fielded Full Authority Digital Engine Control Systems (FADEC). Goodrich systems are flying today on the Chinook, Kiowa Warrior, and A/MH-6M Little Birds helicopters.
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