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US approves AH-6i sale to Thailand

24 September 2019
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Thailand would use eight AH-6i helicopters (pictured) to replace its seven ageing Bell AH-1F Cobras. Source: IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

The US State Department has approved the sale to Thailand of eight Boeing AH-6i light attack and reconnaissance rotorcraft, as well as associated weapons, equipment, and support.

The approval, which was announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 24 September, is valued at USD400 million and will enable the Royal Thai Army (RTA) to retire its seven ageing Bell AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters.

As noted by the DSCA, the proposed sale covers the Little Bird-family helicopters, 50 Lockheed Martin AGM-114R Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, 200 BAE Systems Advance Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guided rockets, 10 Dillion M134 7.62 mm Mini-Guns, four General Dynamics GAU-19/B 12.7 mm Gatling guns, 500 70 mm Hydra rockets, 20 night vision goggles, eight WESCAM MX-10Di electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) cameras, as well as other equipment and support.

"As part of a broader military modernisation effort, these AH-6i helicopters will provide light attack reconnaissance for close air support to special operations forces, Stryker infantry soldiers, and border guard units," the DSCA said.

The approval for Thailand comes about 21 months after the US Army issued a request for information (RFI) for up to 120 AH-6 helicopters for Saudi Arabia and other undisclosed allied operators. The request covered the manufacture and delivery of the Little Bird helicopters in the AH-6SA (Saudi Arabia) and AH-6i (International) configurations.

The US Army stated that the AH-6SA/AH-6i helicopters will be delivered in the Performance Enhancement Production Upgrade Configuration. This comprises composite main rotor blades, upgraded mast /mast base HI-LOK fasteners, reverse direction tail rotor system (including directional flight controls and tail rotor drive shaft), and an extended tail boom.

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