Country of origin
1 - 2 men
Dimensions and weight
Main rotor diameter
Weight (maximum take off)
1 406 kg
Engines and performance
1 x T63-A-5A or T63-A-700 turboshaft
252 or 375 shp respectively
5 700 m
up to 6 hours
Payload capacity (internal)
OH-6 Cayuse light reconnaissance helicopter, the Boeing/Hughes
MH-6 is a small, versatile helicopter used primarily for special
operations. It also has a number of variants, including the AH-6, a
small but immensely capable attack helicopter. More recent models
are based on the MD-530 civilian helicopter.
In 1960, the U.S. Army issued a requirement for a light
helicopter suitable for observation, transport, and even attack
roles. The 1966 OH-6 Cayuse was the result. The MH-6 is an improved
model, incorporating more passenger space and an increased
capability to add armament, among other changes. Although the
“Little Bird” was originally developed as a recon helicopter for
armored units, it was almost immediately transferred to the special
The MH-6 utilizes an “egg-shaped” design. The front houses a
large glass, high-visibility bubble cockpit, capable of seating two
crew members. The fuselage sides house the passenger seating. In
order to reduce weight, this seating consists of simply two benches,
one on each side of the helicopter, where 6 (3 on each side)
soldiers can be placed. Although it may look dangerous, the upshot
of this design allows the soldiers to be able to quickly exit the
helicopter. Finally, the rear is the home of the engine, which
develops about 375 shp, powering the “Little Bird” to a maximum
speed of 282 km/h. With 235 liters (62 gallons) of internal fuel,
the MH-6 has a max range of 430 kilometers.
The MH-6 has a number of features that have made it the U.S.
Special Forces’ primary light helicopter to this day. Despite
lacking armor, it is reasonably tough and leaves the pilots a good
chance of survival in a crash. It is very quiet, and when painted
black, has a good degree of stealth. This light helicopter is also
immensely proficient at difficult, fast, and dangerous maneuvers,
making it suitable for both urban and rural environments, especially
at low altitudes. It can land fast in narrow steers or even on the
roofs of buildings. The MH-6 is a smaller alternative to the MH-60
Contrary to popular belief, the MH-6, unless modified, does
not carry any armament, as it is an observation and transport
helicopter, although its
AH-6 variant can carry a wide variety of
guns, missiles, and rockets. However, the MH-6 can play a crucial
role in the ground attack missions of the AH-6, acting as a sensor
system. AH-6s normally carry their own sensor suites, unless
operating with a MH-6, which takes over the sensor role. This allows
the AH-6 to carry more armament.
The MH-6 has a distinguished combat history. After the 1980
failure in the Eagle Claw hostage-rescue operation, the United
States needed a special operation helicopter unit. It quickly formed
the 160th Special Operations Aviation Brigade (SOAR), more commonly
known as the Night Stalkers. This unit has provided and continues to
provide ceaseless close air support and transportation for special
forces units, particularly the elite troops of Joint Special
Operations Command (JSOC).
The MH-6 first saw combat (although of a limited amount) in
Grenada and, later, Nicaragua. However, the MH-6 really proved
itself in Operation Prime Chance, a mission for protecting merchant
shipping. Here, MH-6s first helped guide AH-6s to targets, typically
small Iranian boats.
In Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama, MH-6s
played a critical role. The first and most interesting mission for
the Little Birds and their operators was to rescue Kurt Muse, a
captured CIA operative. After getting Muse, the helicopter attempted
to take off, but was immediately shot down. However, all personnel
survived the crash. The Little Birds later participated in the hunt
for Manuel Noriega. Four years later, in the much publicized Battle
for Mogadishu, a MH-6 succeeded in rescuing two of the downed
operatives from one of the downed
The MH-6 saw much combat first in Afghanistan and later in
Iraq. They ferried JSOC personnel all over both countries and
provided sensor support for AH-6 missions. In Iraq, at the height of
the US war there, JSOC launched many missions a day to eliminate
insurgents. These missions typically consisted of two AH-6s for
interdiction, two MH-6s with snipers for pinpoint shooting, and two
MH-60 Black Hawks full of operators for assault.
One interesting capability that operatives in the 160th SOAR
know how to exploit is known as “Smokey and the Bandit”. The
operatives fold the Little Bird’s rotors and pack as many as two of
them into a large commercial transport truck. This allows the
operatives to bring the helicopters close to the target without
attracting attention. Once they are ready to use the helicopters,
operatives can reassemble the MH-6s in about three minutes.
Other operators of the MH-6 (besides the United States) are
Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
attack helicopter variant of the Little Bird. It is known as the
Little Bird, or Little Bird Gun. This helicopter is used for numerous
special missions, its design is essentially the same as the MH-6,
except that it lacks the troop benches and carries two mounting
stations instead. These can hold a blend of 30 mm chain guns, 12.7
mm Gatling guns, 7.62 mm miniguns, pods with 70 mm unguided Hyrda
Hellfire anti-tank missiles,
anti-tank missiles, and AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles. The AH-6
has a large number of variants.
EH-6E: a mobile command post and electronic warfare platform.
MH-6E: an improved transport model of the original Little
MH-6H: a dedicated Special Forces transport.
MH-6J: updated version based on the civilian MD-530MG.
Improvements include a better engine, Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR)
technology, and an internal navigation system.
MH-6M: is the newest version. It is also known as the Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB).
This is an upgrade program that introduces a number of improvements,
including a new 6-bladed main rotor (which further reduces noise), a
Rolls-Royce 250-C30R/3M 650 shp engine, improved folding benches,
racks for carrying up to 2 motorcycles, and fuel tanks that are
supposedly resistant to crashes and heavy machine gun fire.
MH-6X: an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) model. It is marketed
primarily at other countries. Can also be manned.
KUS-VH: a Korean UAV project using the Little Bird’s
Article by The Tiger
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