Jordan Could Be First Customer for Boeing AH-6i Helicopter

 - June 3, 2010, 6:57 AM
Boeing took its AH-6i helicopter demonstrator to Amman, Jordan, in May, and came away with a potential sale. (Photo credit: David Donald)

At the SOFEX special forces exhibition held at Amman in May, Jordan signed a letter of intent (LOI) to purchase the Boeing AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter, a modernized version of the tried and trusted Little Bird helicopter. Boeing has been showing off its demonstrator throughout the Middle and Far East since the type's first flight on September 16 and airshow debut at Dubai in November last year.

Signing the LOI was Major General Habashneh, commander of the Royal Jordanian Air Force. He explained that negotiations were just beginning, and that it was too early to specify numbers or schedule. He nevertheless hinted at the roles to which the AH-6i might be allocated by saying that it had been chosen to “enhance border security, and to build up training for the Apache or other helicopters.”

Jordan currently operates two squadrons of Bell AH-1F Cobras-in need of replacement-in the attack role and has six MD 530F Little Birds serving in the special forces support role. Operated by the Prince Hashim Aviation Brigade, part of Jordan's Special Operations Command, the Little Birds fly special forces insertion missions and armed support with miniguns and rockets.

With its Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III avionics, the AH-6i would give Jordan a much more potent day/night precision attack capability. The AH-6i has an all-glass cockpit, beefed up structure, Fadec control for the Rolls-Royce C30R/3M turboshaft engines and a four-blade “quiet” tail rotor. It can be fitted with a multi-sensor turret (currently L-3 Wescam's MX-15) and has precision attack capability thanks to weapons such as the DAGR laser-guided rocket and Hellfire II missile.