Procurement: Foreigners Sniff Out Little Bird


May 18, 2010: Two years ago, Boeing began offering a gunship version of its OH-6 helicopter to foreign customers. Now they have their first sale. Jordan is buying some (the exact number is being negotiated) for their border guard. The Jordanians will get a customized version, the AH-6I, which will probably include the night sensors and laser designator. Jordan has a long desert frontier, and lots of problems with smugglers, and the movement of Islamic terrorists across the border. Jordan will retire it's 11 elderly AH-1S gunships, so the AH-6I order will probably be two dozen or more.

SOCOM has long used the MH-6 (and the AH-6) version of the 1960s era OH-6. Developed in the early 1980s, the AH-6, or "Little Bird" is a 1.4 ton helicopter with a crew of two, top speed of 280 kilometers an hour. Average sortie is 3-3.5 hours. It can be armed with two 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine-gun pods, or two 70mm rocket pods (seven or 12 rockets each) or four Hellfire missiles. Without weapons, the MH-6 can carry six troops (usually Special Forces operators) externally. The new AH-6 can also carry a day/night targeting system, including a laser designator.

Later versions of the AH-6 were based on a similar helicopter, the MD-500. The new AH-6 enables nations to have helicopter gunship capability at a cost of only about six million dollars per aircraft. That's about a tenth of what a AH-64D would cost, and a third of what a Russian gunship goes for it. Little Bird could be a big deal on the international market, but so far only the Jordanians, and the American FBI have stepped up.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close