MH-6M / AH-6M Little Bird Helicopter
The AH-6M / MH-6Mj 'Little Bird' are light attack/transport helicopters operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers). 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.
The Night Stalkers previously operated Ah-6J and MG-6J variants of the Little Bird. The Mission-Enhanced Little Bird [MELB] program, which completed in 2015, upgraded the Little Bird fleet to MH-6M and AH-6M standards. Upgrades included a 6-bladed main rotor, 4-bladed tail rotor, improved efficiency and avionics.
Little Bird - Roles
AH-6M - 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-6M - Role
The MH-6 is unarmed and is designed as a troop transport helicopter and is primarly used to insert and extract special operations forces (SOF) such as Delta Force and Rangers. It's small size allows it to land on small roofs or down in narrow streets.
Little Bird - Features
Little Birds feature a 6-bladed main rotor, APR 39 radar warning receiver, secure comms, GPS navigation, a forward looking infrared (FLIR) pod and 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.
Based around the MD530 airframe, the AH-6M 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-6Ms 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.
Also based on the MD530, the MH-Mj 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-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:
|Crew||2 - Pilot, Co-pilot|
|Engines||Rolls-Royce Model 250-C30R/3 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|
|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
AN/AAQ-16D AESOP FLIR
(optional - housed in pod under cabin)
GPS / Inertial Navigation System
(FM, UHF, VHF, Motorola Saber, and SATCOM)
APR-39 Radar Warning Receiver