11 Photos That Show That The 'Little Bird' Has A Big Mission
Although the H-6 was initially fielded by the U.S. Army in the early '60s, it wasn't until the failed "Eagle Claw" mission in 1980 that the service started getting serious about supporting special operations with helicopters.
An MH-6 on short final with Rangers on the skids ready for action. (Photo: U.S. Army)
Since that time "Little Birds" have been used in crucial special operations missions across the globe from Panama to Somolia to Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Photo: U.S. Army)
Little Birds are operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the "Night Stalkers"
Rangers prepare to dismount from a Little Bird during a training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Army)
The Night Stalkers operate a variety of helicopter models including the Chinook and Blackhawk, all modified for special operations missions.
MH-6 lands near a parked MH-47 Chinook. (Note Chinook's refueling probe for long-range missions.) (Photo: U.S. Army)
Little Birds come in two basic variants -- troop transport and attack. The attack version -- the AH-6 -- is armed with two M134 miniguns, two M260 7-shot Hydra 70 rocket pods. Alternately, the AH-6 can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, air-to-air Stingers, Mk-19 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, or .50 caliber machine guns.
Little Bird static display showing rocket pods and other weapons hard points. (Photo: U.S. Army)
In September 1987, Night Stalkers participated in Operation Prime Chance, engaging and neutralizing an Iranian ship that was being used for mine laying. Little Birds attacked the threat while using aviator night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared devices over water, the first successful night combat engagement under these conditions.
Pilot using NVGs. (Photo: U.S. Army)
The Little Bird can carry up to six troops, three on each side, but usually they limit the number to two per side.
Little Bird flares during an insertion demo conducted at a NASCAR event in Kansas. (Photo: U.S. Army)
Little Bird pilots get specialized training in close quarters flying and night ops and those skills are heavily leveraged once they get to the Night Stalkers.
Trainer version of the Little Bird. (Photo: U.S. Army)
When not at war Little Bird pilots train as intensely as the special operators they carry.
House takedown exercise with a section of Little Birds. (Photo: U.S. Army)
After all, they set themselves to a very high standard: According to it's mission statement the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is constantly ready to arrive time-on-target plus or minus 30 seconds.
"Let's get it on!" (Photo: U.S. Army)
And here's the last thing an insurgent might see . . .
Little Bird on final approach with Rangers at the ready. (Photo: U.S. Army)