The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded
MD Helicopters a $1.39 billion contract to provide 150 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior
light utility helicopters to the government of Afghanistan. The deal includes maintenance, support services and pilot training. Production sites and funding under the foreign military sales program (FMS) will be determined by each order as it is requested, with a scheduled delivery date of August 31, 2022. It is hoped that the Cayuse Warrior, along with the Embraer Super Tucano light attack aircraft can fill the gap left by Afghanistan's ageing Soviet-era aircraft, however the new aircraft thus far have been in small numbers and with mixed results. With the Cayuse Warrior, one pilot complained that when fully loaded it had a maximum altitude of only 8,000 ft., making it incapable of crossing many of the mountain ranges
in Afghanistan. It is unarmored and there have been reports of mechanical unreliability, the .50 machine guns repeatedly jamming in action, and the lack of gunsights requiring the weapons to be aimed by tracers.
In March 2011, MD Helicopters, Inc. in Mesa, AZ won a competition for the Afghan Air Force that could reach as many as 54 helicopters over the life of the 4 year contract, giving it an implicit value of up to $180 million. Discussions with MD Helicopters confirmed that these are MD 530Fs, designed for high altitude and/or hot weather operations, where thinner air costs helicopters some of their lift.
The MD 530F uses Rolls Royce’s 650 shp 250-C30 engine, instead of the 500E’s 450-shp 250-C20R. That drives a 5-bladed set of main-rotor blades that have been extended 6 inches, along with lengthened tail rotors on a correspondingly longer tail boom. In a typical working configuration, at a design gross weight of 3,100 pounds/ 1,406 kg and a useful load of over 1,509 pounds/ 684 kg, it can hover out-of-ground effect at 11,600 feet/ 3,536m (ISA + 20°C). An optional cargo hook is rated for 2,000 pounds/ 907 kg, and the helicopter also has a flat aft cargo compartment floor for internal loads. These may be training helicopters, but they can be repurposed for light utility tasks. MD Helicopter designs are not unknown in the military market.