AH-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. The AH-6 Little Bird can be outfitted with 2.75-in. rockets, a 7.62 minigun, Hellfire missiles, a 30 mm cannon and a .50-caliber machine gun. The AH-6 Little Bird Gun, a light attack helicopter, has been tested and proven in combat. The AH-6 is designed for light attack, close air support and direct attack for special operations forces in adverse weather and at night. The AH-6 can carry a wide array of weapons mounted on Aerocrafter Plank weapons carriers. It provides armed helicopter support to both ground and air special operations. The unrefueled range of the AH-6 is 250 nautical miles.
This small tactical helicopter is flown by units of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. It can cruise at speeds of 160 mph and is a derivation of the old OH-6 "Cayuse." Among the weapons it can carry is the TOW missile and the aircraft can be equipped with two weapon pods on each side of the fuselage plus a telescopic nose sight for the gunner and a steering indicator for the pilot. A 30 mm chain gun can be fired at rates of up to 750 rounds per minute.
Early versions of the Little Bird were originally developed from the OH-6A and include the AH-6C and EH-6B and MH-6B, all powered by a single Allison T-63 252 SHP engine. Later versions are based on the successful Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-500/MD-530 series helicopters. Most aircraft have been rebuilt to a common standard, AH-6H, and are fitted with a 425 SHP Allison 250-C30 turboshaft engines.
The latest versions of this aircraft, the AH-6J attack helicopter, features a more powerful engine and improved avionics, including an embedded GPS/inertial navigation system and forward-looking infrared (FLIR). The AH-6J can be armed with two seven-tube 2.75 inch rocket launchers and two 7.62mm M134 "miniguns". The "Little Bird" can also be armed with .50 Cal. machine guns, MK19 40mm grenade machine gun, Hellfire missiles, and Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) missiles.
Aircraft are being upgraded under the Mission-Enhanced Little Bird [MELB] program, The MELB provides centralized management for the research, development, procurement and fielding of special operation forces (SOF) enhanced versions of the AH/MH-6 helicopters. Upgrades include a six bladed main rotor, a canted four bladed tail rotor, a 600 shp main transmission drive system and more powerful Allison engines. The improved engine inlet and airframe structural modifications enable a gross weight increase from 1991 to 2367 kg.
FY2000 funds provide for the integration of the Allison 250-C30/R3 engine, and Full Authority Digital Electronic Control software refinement into the Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) aircraft. This provides extensive Electro Magnetic Interference/Electro Magnetic Countermeasure (EMI/EMC) testing for the MELB aircraft. This includes shipboard compatibility, full certificate at the Dahlgren facility and additional shielding/protection for the aircraft systems. The FY2000 program partially replaces large single functional analog components with fleet common miniaturized, light weight multifunctional econfigurable displays for flight, navigation, communication and weapons systems management.
In April 2000 USS ESSEX (LHD 2) conducted a joint shipboard helicopter integration process is providing key interoperability information to ensure the success of future joint-service operations helping the United States meet the diverse missions that may face the military in the future. ESSEX, a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship, embarked four Army helicopters, two UH-60A Blackhawks and two AH-6 special operations helicopters. Those aircraft helped evaluators test everything from hot refueling and ordnance loading procedures and aircraft movement on the flight deck, to wind parameters and maintenance support.
The FY2001 plan continues to provide for the integration of the Allison 250-C30/R3 engine, and Full Authority Digital Electronic Control software refinement into the Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) aircraft. Efforts continue to provide for extensive Electro Magnetic Interference/Electro Magnetic Countermeasures (EMI/EMC) testing for the MELB aircraft. This includes shipboard compatibility and certification at the Dahlgren facility and additional shielding/protection for the aircraft systems. Work continues to replace large single functional analog components with fleet common miniaturized, light weight multifunctional reconfigurable displays for flight, navigation, communication and weapon systems management.