production AH-6i Light Armed Scout Helicopter makes first flight

Launched in 2010 as an international focused development, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are already committed to the program

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A production variant of the Boeing AH-6i flew for the first time recently. Several countries in the Middle East are interested in this mini-gunship. Photo: Boeing
A production variant of the Boeing AH-6i flew for the first time recently. Several countries in the Middle East are interested in this mini-gunship. Clearly visible is the helicopter is configured with L-3 Wescam MX-15Di EO/IR targeting sensor payload system and two weapon carrying racks, that can be loaded with two M260 pods carrying seven rockets each, including laser-guided 70mm rockets or Hellfire semi-active laser (SAL) missiles. Photo: Boeing

The AH-6i armed scout helicopter has made its first flight in its production configuration, moving the program another step closer to full-scale production, the manufacturer Boeing announced yesterday.

The AH-6i prototype of the helicopter flew on September 16, 2009. The helicopter is intended to provide close-air support for land-based forces and serve as an attack platform for destroying tanks, armored vehicles and fortifications. The new helicopter has been developed primarily for export, eying specific interest from several middle-eastern countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia. Chile has also expressed interest in the helicopter.

On that first flight Boeing pilots flew the aircraft for less than 20-minutes at low speeds in forward, rearward and sideward flight at low elevations during a recent test. Future tests will expand the flight envelope over the next several months.

“This first AH-6 flight in the production configuration takes us closer to delivering an advanced light attack and reconnaissance helicopter that meets the needs of defense forces around the world,” said Boeing AH-6 Program Director Scott Rudy. The aircraft will be produced at Boeing’s Mesa plant in Arizona, under the terms of an existing agreement with MD Helicopters.

The AH-6i is a single-turbine helicopter that is based on the combat-proven OH-6A Cayuse. It is an advanced variant of the AH-6M helicopter operated by the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces. Boeing has also proposed to provide SOCOM with an upgraded variant dubbed ‘AH-6S Phoenix’. According to Boeing, the new version incorporates advanced technologies from adapted from the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter.

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