MH-6j / AH-6j Little Bird Helicopter

The AH-6j / MH-6j 'Little Bird' are light attack/utility helicopters operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Both the AH-6 and MH-6 are based around a civilian airframe (MD530F), with extensive modifications in terms of avionics and provisions for the mounting of specialized equipment and weapons systems.

Little Bird - Roles

AH-6 - Role

The AH-6 is flown as an attack helicopter, usually toting two M134 7.62 miniguns and 7-tube FFAR rocket pods, firing high explosive and/or fletchette anti-personnel rounds. SOAR AH-6s may be used in pre-planned attacks, close air support or in the escort role, protecting other SOAR birds.

MH-6 - Role

The MH-6 is unarmed and is designed as a troop transport helicopter. It's small size allows it to land on small roofs or down in narrow streets.

Little Bird - Variants

The Night Stalkers fly several versions of the Little Bird. All variants feature a 5-bladed main rotor, APR 39 radar warning receiver, secure comms, GPS navigation, can be fitted with a forward looking infrared (FLIR) pod and feature Night Vision Goggles-compatible cockpits.

Little Birds can be rapidly 'broken down' and air transported in cargo planes, then quickly built up at their destination.

AH-6j

Based around the MD530 airframe, the AH-6 gunship features pylons for the loading over a number of weapons systems including:

  • M134 miniguns
  • M260 FFAR rocket pods
  • AGM-114 laser-guided anti-tank missiles
  • GAU-19 .50 cal 3-barrel gatling guns

For target acquisition, AH-6Js can fitted with a AN/AAQ-16D AESOP FLIR, which features a laser designator-range finder, which is used to paint targets for the AGM-114 laser-guided missiles.

MH-6j

Also based on the MD530, the MH-6j is configured for the insertion and extraction of special operations forces and can be configured with specialized equipment for this task:

  • external personnel pods (EPS)
    fold-down benches fitted each side of the fuselage which each can hold 2-3 men
  • fast rope insertion / extraction (FRIES) gear
  • racks for carrying motorcycles (up to 2)
  • winch / hoist system

AH-6M/MH-6M Mission Enhanced Little Bird

The US Army's Mission-Enhanced Little Bird [MELB] program is currently upgraded the existing AH/MH-6j fleet. These improvements include:

  • six-bladed main-rotors
  • four-bladed tail rotor
  • improved engines
  • enhanced avionics including:
    • 1553 data bus
    • Full Authority Digital Electronic Control software
    • Next generation FLIR

AH-6/MH-6 - Crew

Although Little Birds can be crewed by just one pilot, it's more common that they are crewed by 2 Night Stalkers:

  • Pilot
  • Co-pilot

AH-6/MH-6 Specifications

Crew 2 - Pilot, Co-pilot
Engines 1 425-shp Allison 250- C30 turboshaft
Dimensions L - 9.8m
W (rotorspan) - 8.1m
H - 2.6m
Weights 896 kg (empty)
1,610 kg (max loadout)
Max Speed 282 kph
Range 430 km
Armament
(AH-6)
Various combinations of :
2x TOW missile pods (4 missiles total)
2x M260 FFAR 2.75" 7/12-rocket pods.
2x .50 caliber gun pods
2x AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles
2x Stinger Air-to-Air Missiles
2x M134 7.62mm miniguns
2x MK19 Grenade Launchers
Avionics FLIR
AN/AAQ-16D AESOP FLIR
(optional - housed in pod under cabin)
GPS / Inertial Navigation System
Secure communications:
(FM, UHF, VHF, Motorola Saber, and SATCOM)
APR-39 Radar Warning Receiver


MH-6j - Rangers
A MH-6M pictured in-flight, carrying Rangers strapped to benches along the fuselage.
photo courtesy US Army

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