Boeing hosted a press conference at its Mesa, Arizona aircraft facility on June 7 that showcased the newly assembled AH-6i Little Bird attack and exploration helicopter. The Little Bird is planned to be delivered to Saudi Arabia at the end of June to the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG). Currently numbered 61001, the helicopter has recently undergone the last part of the assembly process but has yet to undergo flight testing. The final step is delivering it to Saudi Arabia, one of the recipients of the new upsurge of U.S. weaponry distribution. Boeing is currently working with the U.S. Army on an agreement to supply foreign buyers with 72 Little Birds.
24 AH-6i helicopters are part of a 2014 foreign military sale (FMS). 7 of those are at different stages of the building process. The fuselages for the AH-6is built for Saudi Arabia have been provided by MD Helicopters, with other stages of manufacturing taking place in Monterrey, Mexico. Pilots from Saudi Arabia and pilots that will instruct in Saudi Arabia will train at Boeing’s Mesa, Arizona location. The Defense Contract Management Agency will carry out flight tests for Boeing’s AH-6i Helicopters before delivery to the Saudi Arabia National Guard.
The Little Bird has been designed for light attack with the inclusion of semi-active laser Hellfire missiles, 70mm missiles, an M-134 mini gun, and a .50 caliber GAU-19B machine gun. It also includes a small sensor with laser rangefinder and a laser pointer.
The 72 Little Birds contract with the U.S. Army was established to expedite foreign military sales. Though Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing, Mark Ballew, did not clearly state what countries were negotiating purchases of the helicopter models, he did express knowledge of Jordan showing interest in the Little Birds. Saudi Arabia is the only official recipient of the attack helicopter thus far. This is only part of SANG’s defense purchases which include 36 AH-64E Apaches, 36 AH-6is, 72 Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawks, and 12 MD Helicopters MD-530Fs.
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