Boeing AH-6i is a light attack / reconnaissance helicopter designed primarily for export markets. It is an advanced variant of the AH-6M helicopter operated by the US Army Special Operations Forces. The helicopter is intended to provide close air support for land-based forces. It can also serve as an attack platform for destroying enemy tanks, armoured vehicles and fortifications.
The ground clearance is increased with an extended height landing gear. The modular design allows the integration of flexible mission configurations, as well as additional capabilities for future requirements.
The helicopter features new main and tail rotor systems for superior performance. The flight characteristics were further improved with the addition of enhanced directional control, a new vertical stabiliser and collective trim actuator.
The AH-6i helicopter has a length of 7.5m, height of 1.6m and width of 3.3m. The wing span of the rotorcraft is 8.38m. The helicopter can carry a payload of 907kg.
Boeing’s first production AH-6i Little Bird completes maiden flight: Here
Cockpit and avionics of the helicopter
The new advanced glass cockpit design of AH-6i incorporates bubble-window crew doors. The cockpit accommodates two crew, including a pilot and co-pilot. The night vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit integrates two multifunction displays, an up-front display, a 3-in-1 flight information display, vertical information display and pilot and co-pilot intercom control station (ICS) panels.
Dedicated panels are provided for electrical power, radio control, armament, jettison and lighting.
The AH-6i helicopter features a lightweight multiple weapons support system for mounting wide range of weapons, including the M-134D 7.62mm mini-gun, GAU-19 12.7mm mini-gun, M260 seven-shot rocket pod, laser-guided 70mm Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR) and Hellfire semi-active laser (SAL) missiles.
M-134D 7.62mm mini-gun
The Dillon Aero M134D is one of the most reliable weapons in the world, given its capacity, simplicity in loading, and ease of maintenance. Designed for speed and accuracy, the M134D is a true force multiplier. The rapidity of shooting is of the utmost importance: only guns as rapid as the M134D can achieve the extreme shot density needed to suppress multiple targets in compressed periods of time. Additionally, the M134D is virtually free of recoil. When properly mounted, it moves slightly aft with the first shot, without any tendency to pitch or yaw. This stability is vital, in that it significantly assists in the aiming on and retention of a target. High rates of fire, extremely dense shot grouping, and high weapon stability demonstrate the perfect pairing of swiftness and precision.
The M134D is the standard Minigun in use with US ground forces. The weapon’s robust construction provides for an exceptionally long service life which numbers in the millions of rounds. The M134D is primarily used in ground and naval environments, whereas the M134D-H is used on aviation platforms.
The Minigun’s high rate of fire is the source of its exceptional accuracy and threat suppression capabilities. The system is electrically powered by either a 24 Volt DC battery or vehicle power. Chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO, the Minigun fires at an impressive rate of 3,000 shots per minute. This rate of fire is divided between the weapon’s six barrels, resulting in a firing rate of only 500 shots per minute per barrel. This is less than that of any single barreled machine gun.
- Chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO with available magazines in up to 4,000 round capacities
- Fixed firing rates of 3,000 rounds per minute (50 rounds per second)
- Averages an impressive 30,000 rounds between stoppages
- 1/50th of a second between each shot = four rounds fired from the M134D in the time it takes to fire a single round from an M240
- Four-fold reduction in the amount of time needed for gunner to see his hits and adjust aim, leading to an average of nine times more hits
GAU-19 12.7mm mini-gun
The externally mounted version of the 12.7mm GAU-19/A three-barrel Gatling gun produced by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems provides high-rate-of-fire firepower in a small, lightweight weapon system.
The weapon is effective in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The GAU-19/A gun is installed within a fixed-forward mount that can be attached to standard 14-inch NATO stores racks or lightweight mount, which attaches directly to a universal stores pylon.
The GAU-19/A provides highly effective air-to-ground firepower against area suppression and point targets, such as light armored vehicles. Its high rate of fire, combined with the 12.7mm ammunition’s short time of flight, permits reduced exposure time while the gunner is unmasked.
The system is ideally suited for scout or utility helicopters and light fixed-wing aircraft. It features an internal recoil system that reduces gun recoil to the airframe. This system can be coupled with a variety of linked ammunition feed systems that can, in turn, be tailored to fit a variety of applications.
The GAU-19/A has an automatic safing and clearing cycle. This ensures no live rounds are left in the gun and the firing mechanism is in a defeated position.
|Gun type||Three-barrel, 12.7mm, externally powered Gatling gun|
|Reliability||40,000 mean rounds between
|Scheduled Maintenance||30,000 rounds|
|Barrel replacement||50,000 rounds/set|
|Gun Weight||138 pounds|
|Rate of fire||1,000/1,300/2,000 shots per minute|
|Dispersion||Maximum of 5 milliradians diameter,
80 percent circle
|Average peak recoil force||630 pounds at 2,000 shots per minute|
|495 pounds at 1,300 shots per minute|
pounds at 1,000 shots per minute
|Ammunition||Standard NATO .50 caliber M9-linked|
|Feed system||Linked belt|
M260 seven-shot rocket pod
APKWS® Laser-Guided Rocket
There are a number of precision-guided weapons on the market, but few consistently hit their intended target with pinpoint accuracy, while leaving minimal collateral damage. Our guidance section is designed to lock onto targets from over 3 kilometers away, keeping aircraft and laser designators at a safe distance from threats.
Innovative by design, the APKWS rocket includes advanced DASALS seeker optics located on all four guidance wings. Once fired, the wings deploy, and the optics lock in, guiding the rocket to the target – delivering accuracy when it matters most.
- Wing slot seals protect optics from adjacent firings, sand, and moisture prior to launch to ensure no damage or debris inhibit the seeker from locking onto targets
- Optics lock onto moving or stationary targets in open or confined areas, supporting a wide variety of missions, and eliminating the possibility of a lost or uncontrolled rocket after launch
- 40-degree instantaneous field of regard enables a broad capture area for the rocket to adjust mid-flight and stay on track to its target
Laser-guided 70mm Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR)
Hellfire semi-active laser (SAL) missiles
The AGM-114 HELLFIRE Family of Missiles includes the HELLFIRE II and Longbow HELLFIRE Missiles. HELLFIRE II is a precision strike, Semi-Active Laser (SAL)-guided missile and is the principal air-to-ground weapon for the Army AH-64 Apache, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Special Operations aircraft, Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra, and Air Force Predator and Reaper UAS.
The SAL HELLFIRE II missile is guided by laser energy reflected off the target. It has three warhead variants: a dual-warhead, shaped-charge, high-explosive anti-tank capability for armored targets (AGM-114K); a blast fragmentation warhead for urban, patrol boat and other “soft” targets (AGM-114M); and a metal-augmented charge warhead (AGM-114N) for urban structures, bunkers, radar sites, communications installations and bridges.
Beginning in 2012, a HELLFIRE II multipurpose warhead variant (AGM-114R) became available to the warfighter and allows selection of warhead effects corresponding to a specific target type. The AMG-114R is capable of being launched from Army rotary-wing and UAS platforms and provides the pilot increased operational flexibility. Source army.mil
The Hellfire is a laser guided air-to-surface missile (ASM) equipped with multimission, multitarget precision-strike capabilities. The integrated weapon support system enables the AH-6 to perform counteraction missions involving the destruction of key enemy installations.
Sensor system and communications
The AH-6i helicopter features an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di EO/IR targeting sensor system.
The MX-15Di can be integrated with up to six high-performance sensors, including a laser designator with LRF, laser illuminator, eye-safe laser range-finder, colour daylight camera with zoom lens, mono daylight camera with spotter lens and an infra red (IR) with high magnification four-step zoom.
L-3 Wescam MX-15Di EO/IR targeting sensor system
Ideal for: ISR – Medium-Altitude Covert Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance, SAR missions
Installations: Fixed-wing, Rotary-wing, UAV, Aerostat
Features & Benefits
- No external electronics unit ““ direct support of peripherals reduces aircraft wiring
- Installed weight reduced by up to 50 lb/22 kg
Multi-Sensor Imaging/Lasing Payload Options:
- Currently supports up to 6 sensors simultaneously
- Superior HD imaging resolution from Electro-Optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) cameras
- 20% improvement in range performance
Just launched: Easy-to-use state-of-the-art technologies that improve operator effectiveness
- Color low-light, wide-angle zoom EO imager ““ Complementing the system’s existing dual-channel spotter, this technology enhances its imaging capability under a wide range of illumination conditions, including dusk and poor weather conditions
- Zoom spotter ““ Zoom optics allow the operator to achieve the desired balance of magnification and field of view between moderately wide and ultra-narrow
- Short wave IR (SWIR) imager ““ Useful for day and night imaging missions, the high resolution SWIR imager offers outstanding range performance at the limits of atmospheric visibility. In addition, it offers improved imaging performance under suboptimal atmospheric conditions, such as atmospheric haze and fog
- Blends EO and IR imagery
- Spectrally-rich image yields detail that would be invisible in individual senor images
Enhanced Local Area Processing (ELAP):
- Real-time image enhancement for EO day, EO night & IR
IR Image Processor (Local Area Processing):
- Greatly enhances image detail and scene contract
- Increases dynamic range, reduces noise, performs electronic zoom
High-Performance IMU & MX-GEO Software Suite:
- IMU & MX-GEO work to create accurate target location
- MX-GEO automatically aligns to the aircraft
- Robust automatic image focus
- 4-axis gimbal with internal IMU
- All payloads are fully-stabilized
- Common operator interfaces and Hand Controller Units (HCUs):
- Ease and familiarity of use
- Simplified interchangeability
- Efficiencies in product support and technology enhancements
The navigation equipment and systems onboard the AH-6i include a LN251 INS/GPS, Boeing integrated digital map, L3 standby flight instrumentation system, HARCO air data computer and an APN-209 radar altimeter.
The LN-251 is a fully integrated, non-dithered navigation system with an embedded 12/24 channel, All-In-View, Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), P(Y) code or Standard Positioning Service (SPS) GPS. The LN-251 fully integrated, tightly coupled GPS inertial design provides superior navigation performance relative to other embedded INS/GPS units. The non-dithered inertial sensor achieves the lowest measurement error in its class for increased sensor accuracy. Its modular open system architecture provides for easy adaptation to other applications and evolving requirements.
Northrop Grumman’s highly reliable LN-251 INS/GPS has various advantages, including light weight, low cost and high performance. The LN-251 fiber-optic gyro (FOG) employs one of our most modern technologies and includes three independent navigation solutions: blended INS/GPS, INS-only, and GPS-only. The non-dithered, low noise FOG technology eliminates self-induced acceleration and velocity noise. Additionally, Standard Positioning Service GPS (coarse/acquisition code) is available. Our LN-251 has independent and programmable inputs and outputs for flight controls and avionics. The LN-251 has a non-dithered inertial sensor that allows additional accurate velocity measurements and is available in 0.8, 1.0 and 2.0 nmi/hr classes of performance. The system is capable of AR-57 shipboard alignment. Source northropgrumman.com
HARCO air data computer
HARCO’s air data computers compute a variety of functions such as Static Pressure, Total Pressure, Calibrated Airspeed, Mach, SAT, TAS, Altitude Rate, Airspeed Rate, and Pressure Ratio – any air data function can be added. In some unique applications, equivalent airspeed is calculated instead of calibrated airspeed. HARCO will be glad to work with you in determining the exact computer specifications for your application. Source hellotrade.com
APN-209 radar altimeter
Claimed to be one of smallest, lightest and most proven altimeters in the market, the APN-209 provides the pilot and flight control computer with an indication of height above the nearest terrain point below the aircraft, such as a tower or building.
The information provided by the lightweight and compact altimeter is said to ensure that the pilot and crew have the most accurate information about the landscape around their helicopter.
Capable of being integrated with an altitude indicator and mounted in the helicopter cockpit, the radar altimeter also includes advanced features such as low-probability of detection, intercept and exploitation. Source army-technology.com
The helicopter is equipped with Wulfsberg RT5000/C5000 digital communications system.
Wulfsberg RT5000/C5000 digital communications system
Engine onboard Boeing’s AH-6i
AH-6i is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250-C30R/3M engine which develops a power output of 650shp. The engine is controlled by Full Authority Digital Electronic Controller (FADEC). It enables a maximum speed of 132kt. Source Army Technology
Rolls-Royce 250-C30R/3M engine
The Rolls-Royce M250 is a family of turboshaft engines. The M250 Series II turboshaft engines have a two-shaft modular design featuring four to six-stage axial and single-stage centrifugal compressors, a two-stage low-pressure turbine, two-stage high-pressure turbine with a hydromechanical fuel control system, and a gearbox with a 6,000 rpm output. Compressed air is routed to the aft end of the engine for combustion while exhaust gases exit upward from the middle. The larger M250 Series IV engines are identical in layout except they have a one-stage centrifugal rather than a centrifugal/axial compressor.
The newest M250 Series IV turboshaft engines feature a FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) system. Source fi-powerweb.com
AH-6 Technical Specifications
|Maximum Cruise Speed||126 knots|
|Maximum Range||179 nmi (331 km)|
|Maximum Endurance||2.1 hrs|
|Maximum Rate of Climb||2,162 ft per min|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||20,000 ft|
Helicopter orders and deliveries
In July 2010, Boeing and MD Helicopters signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to jointly produce and market the AH-6i helicopter.
In May 2010, Jordan’s Government signed a letter of intent for procuring the AH-6i light attack / reconnaissance helicopter.
In February 2012, Boeing and the Saudi Arabian Government signed a letter of acceptance for 36 AH-6i helicopters.
The Chilean Ministry of Defence expressed interest in the AH-6i helicopters. Other South American nations including Colombia, Brazil and Argentina also showed their interest in the AH-6i helicopter.
Main material source army-technology.com
Main image -Aviation Photo Digest
Images are from public domain unless otherwise stated
Updated Nov 28, 2028