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Boeing to offer AH-6i for Australian SOF role

16 May 2019
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Boeing feels its Little Bird would be a good fit for Australia's special forces helicopter requirement. Source: IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

Boeing has confirmed it is to bid its AH-6i Little Bird light-attack and observation helicopter for Australia's special forces requirement.

Speaking at Boeing's rotorcraft production facility in Philadelphia, David Koopersmith, vice-president and general manager, Vertical Lift, said that the company is waiting on a formal request from the Australian government, but that it stands ready to offer the AH-6i Little Bird once it does.

Australia's Land 2097 Phase 4 requirement is to airlift up to four special operations helicopters aboard a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft for rapid forward deployment. "We do believe we have a good fit with the Little Bird in Australia, and we will be looking to offer that," Koopersmith said on 16 May.

Developed by Boeing from the Vietnam War-era Hughes OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter, the AH-6i features an enhanced powerplant, payload, and avionics package, giving it enhanced 'hot-and-high' capabilities; a large and varied arsenal that includes 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles; and the same avionics suite as fitted to the latest-variant AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter.

The Land 2097 Phase 4 requirement for a special mission helicopter came to light in the country's Defence 'Integrated Investment Program' (DIIP), which was published in 2016. As noted in the DIIP, the new fleet of deployable light reconnaissance and attack helicopters to provide airmobility support for SOF missions is scheduled to be fielded beginning in about 2025. As previously reported by Jane's , the helicopters will be able to be deployed rapidly from a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 as a small force element of three to four aircraft and personnel.

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