Jordan: Launch Customer for AH-6i ARH Helicopter?
In October 2008, Boeing updated its AH-6J “Little Bird” Special Forces attack helicopter to create the AH-6i, an armed reconnaissance helicopter that seemed positioned to compete for Iraq’s ARH requirement. At the time, Boeing Rotorcraft Business Development director Dave Palm added that Boeing had been approached by several customers who needed a light helicopter/ARH solution. The AH-6 features a modern Electro-Optical day/night surveillance and targeting system, as well as twin mounts that can each carry options including 2 Hellfire missiles, the 7seven-shot M260 70mm rocket pod, or gun pods that integrate with its targeting system; plus a communications package.
Iraq later chose the Bell 407, and other manufacturers are entering this market segment after many years of neglect. First flight of the AH-6i came in September 2009, and in May 2010, Jane’s reported that Jordan had signed on as the AH-6i’s launch customer…
Contracts and Key Events
April 29/14: Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $234.7 million unfinalized contract covering 24 AH-6i armed scout helicopters, the initial spares package, and ground support equipment for Saudi Arabia. $115 million is committed immediately.
IHS Jane’s confirms that this is the AH-6i’s 1st sale, as Jordan has yet to make good on its Letter of Intent. (W58RGZ-14-C-0082). See also IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Boeing awarded AH-6i contract for Saudi Arabia”.
May 1/14: Testing. Boeing flies its AH-6i armed scout helicopter for the first time in its production configuration, performing basic maneuvers during the 20-minute flight. They add: “Future tests will expand the flight envelope over the next several months.” This strongly suggests that there haven’t been any deliveries yet. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Flies Production Configuration AH-6i Light Helicopter for the 1st Time”.
Feb 13/12: A Rotor & Wing report says that:
“Tilton can also see further military riches on the horizon as Boeing pushes the AH-6i into the world market as a mini-Apache “with attitude.” There is a first order of 24 aircraft with more to follow.”
The same day, Boeing officials say that Saudi Arabia has signed a preliminary LoA, but that’s for 36 helicopters, and isn’t a final order yet. Jordan is the other country publicly mentioned in conjunction with the AH-6i, and the 24-helicopter order she’s referencing could be Jordanian. It isn’t clear at this point.
March 13/11: MD Helicopters, Inc. announces [PDF] “significant” progress on a contract to collaborate with Boeing on the production of AH-6i armed scout helicopters for the worldwide market. Both companies are now finalizing a Long Term Requirements Contract for the Boeing AH-6i.
May 11/10: LoI. Jordan’s government signs a letter of intent to acquire the AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter, which builds on its experience with earlier “Little Bird” variants. Major General Habashneh, who signed on Jordan’s behalf, emphasized that negotiations were only just beginning. Subsequent account clarify the LoI as being for 18 helicopters plus 6 options.
The AH-6is appear to be slotted into a border security role, with a secondary role as lead-ins and supplements to whatever design is selected to replace Jordan’s AH-1 Cobra attack/scout helicopters. Jane’s | Shephard Group.
Letter of Intent
Sept 16/09: 1st flight. The AH-6i successfully completes its 1st flight, just 7 months after the company started work on the prototype aircraft. That’s very quick, even though the 36-minute flight involved only basic handling maneuvers. It helps to base the airframe on an existing AH-6J Little Bird operated by US Special Forces, and Boeing’s Apache program VP Al Winn adds that the cockpit’s systems architecture was originally developed for the AH-64D Block III (AH-64E), which also helps speed up the process. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing AH-6i Light Attack/Reconnaissance Helicopter Makes 1st Flight”.