Boeing Readies First AH-6i for Delivery to Saudi Arabia

 - June 8, 2016, 9:34 AM
An AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter is parked outside Boeing's facility in Mesa, Ariz. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The first Boeing AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter destined to serve the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) was in the final stage of assembly this week at the manufacturer’s Mesa, Ariz. facility. Company officials expect to deliver the helicopter in July.

During a press trip Boeing hosted at its Mesa production facility, reporters viewed the first SANG AH-6i helicopter—numbered 61001—going through the final week of the build process, prior to entering flight testing. Seven of 24 AH-6is ordered under a 2014 foreign military sale (FMS) were cycling through assembly. Fuselages for the first AH-6is manufactured for Saudi Arabia are being provided by MD Helicopters, with sub-assembly taking place in Monterrey, Mexico.

AH-6is can be fitted with a combination of Hellfire missile and rocket launchers, miniguns and machine guns. The aircraft's integrated, digital cockpit and mission computer were derived from the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

The Defense Contract Management Agency will perform acceptance flight testing of the helicopters before turning them over to the Saudi government. It is expected that several Saudi pilots will train in Mesa, as well as pilots who will serve as instructors in Saudi Arabia.

The armed, single-engine helicopters were contained in a huge weapons deal the U.S. and Saudi Arabian governments negotiated in 2010 that included Boeing AH-64E Apache, Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawk and MD Helicopters MD-530F helicopters. The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency specified 36 AH-6is when it notified Congress of the pending sale on October 20 that year. In August 2014, the U.S. Army awarded Boeing a $234 million FMS contract to supply 24 AH-6is to the SANG, the inaugural customer of the light attack helicopter variant.

Separately, Boeing was awarded a $667 million FMS contract to supply 24 AH-64E Apaches to Qatar, the Department of Defense announced on June 7. Work on the contract is expected to be completed by May 2020.