The debut of the Boeing AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter at the Dubai Airshow this month was just the latest iteration in this aircraft’s long and complicated history. The design first flew in the 1960s as the Hughes Model 300. It was adopted by the U.S. Army as the OH-6A and further developed for civilian customers as the Models 500 and 530. McDonnell Douglas then bought Hughes Helicopters and sold versions of the helicopter to the U.S. Special Forces as the AH/MH-6J. When Boeing bought MD, it sold the light helicopter business line to investors. Today, there is a complicated relationship between Boeing and MD Helicopters regarding military versions of the design.
According to Boeing, the original OH-6 and the variant that it offers today have little in common, other than the characteristic shape of the fuselage. “Boeing has brought the AH-6 into the modern world, with a glass cockpit, more power, and more controllability,” said Fred Jernigan, business development manager. “Not everyone can afford the AH-64 and Hellfire missile system, and the AH-6 with the Dagger is a good alternative,” he continued.
Boeing selected the Dagger because it is compatible with the Hellfire. But the latter is still an option on the AH-6i. The helicopter also comes equipped with an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di EO/IR turret; Fadec controls for the Rolls-Royce C30R/3M engine; a lightweight multiple weapons mount; and an advanced glass cockpit that displays Apache III-type software, according to Jernigan. The structure has been beefed up, and the transmission is driven by a six-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor. The gross takeoff weight is now 4,700 pounds.
Jernigan has identified “about a dozen serious customers worldwide” for the AH-6i. They include operators in the maritime sphere, as well as army, special forces and law enforcement agencies.