Little Birds, Afghan style

“Train Advise Assist Command – Air (TAAC – Air) advisors from the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing fly Afghan Air Force’s newest MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters for a training event. The new helicopters are capable of firing 2.75” rockets and .50-cal machine guns for close air support.”

The U.S. Army adopted the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (nicknamed “Loach”, after the program acronym LOH—Light Observation Helicopter) in 1965 and fielded more than 1,400 of these egg shaped killers in the Vietnam era and, while largely replaced by the 1980s, the AH6/MH6 Little Bird variants did yeoman work with special operations units in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere during the Reagan era (see Operation Prime Chance).

Over Mogadishu during the Blackhawk Down affair, it was four MH-6s (Barbers 51-54 of the 160th SOAR) that kept the city at bay overnight.

“In the movie, the gunships are shown making only one attack. In fact, they were constantly engaged all night long. Each aircraft reloaded six times. It is estimated that they fired between 70 and 80,000 rounds of minigun ammo and fired a total 90 to 100 aerial rockets. They were the only thing that kept the Somalis from overrunning the objective area. All eight gunship pilots were awarded the Silver Star. Every one of them deserved it.” (source)

Today the Army still has about 47 Little Birds of various marks, and the Afghan Air Force is using the next best thing.

The MD 530F Cayuse Warrior, shown turning and burning above, is flown jointly by U.S. and Afghanistan forces and see combat just about every day. The last four of 27 MD 530Fs arrived at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul aboard a U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III airlifter in late August as noted by Janes.

They are all moving to use the Enhanced-Mission Equipment Package (EMEP) which offers the FN Herstal 12.7 mm Heavy Machine Gun Pod (HMP) or 70 mm rockets.

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