Genesis of the AH-6i
“So we started with the US SOCOM (Special Operations Command) MH-6 – it has the same drivetrain, it has the same engine as the AH-6i. So we took a lot of that capability and we put it into the AH-6. Then we took the Apache and we put an Apache tail rotor on this for high-hot performance and then we took the Apache software and put it into the AH-6, so it has about 89 percent of the Apache software in this aircraft.
So it’s designed for scout missions, light attack missions – we can do a heck of a lot more – search and rescue – comes with a hoist if you want it. There’s a whole bunch of different options we have with this airplane.”
What’s in the kit?
So six-bladed main rotor – it’s a big difference. Competitors out there: five. Tail rotor: Canted, four-bladed, Apache technology tail rotor. Competition: two-bladed. So there’s a significant difference in performance with additional blades.
Our airframe is beefed up in order to handle the additional torque, so we put additional formers and stringers throughout this frame to beef it up. We’ve extended the nose so all of the avionics which you would see in some other competitors that are back here (rear), we’ve moved forward. It helps in the forward CG of the airplane, plus it frees up space here (rear).
It’s a fully integrated glass cockpit. We have one of the best sensors that L3 provides – we can put others. Here’s a big differentiator: crashworthy stroking seat. There are two helicopters in the world that have the best crashworthiness. One is Apache – it’s about 56Gs. Number two is AH-6i. US SOCOM paid for us to develop the seat – it’s stroking – it’s about a 30G seat. You won’t find that in any helicopter in the world in this type of class. So your most valuable asset, which is your pilots – if you have to crash, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to walk away. That’s why US SOCOM had us develop the seat to put it in. This is available for international customers.
All of our fuel tanks are ballistic-tolerant – .50 caliber, crashworthy – the main tank is separable – that means it’s crashworthy. The aux tank is self-sealing – .50 caliber. The landing gear – we extended the landing gear for crashworthiness and also to clear the ball. So it serves two purposes. So that adds to the survivability of the airplane.”
“We have a lot of different stuff we can put on there but it’s Hellfire – it’s fully integrated – we’ve launched it. It’s available for international customers. We have the M-134 mini-gun which some of our competitors have – it’s a Dillon gun. We have the GAU-19 .50 caliber, which we usually use as a – it’s a better weapons if you’re going after hard targets. And then we’ve got 7-shot rocket pods – we can fire lock-on-after-launch – BAE APKWS or the Raytheon Talon – it doesn’t matter. Or we can fire the DAGR – the Lockheed Martin Direct Attack Guided Rocket, which is a lock-on-before-launch but thinks it’s a Hellfire missile. So you acquire the target and you can shoot it. You don’t have to be in forward movement when you fire the rocket. And of course the SAL (Semi-Active Laser) Hellfire.
If you take a look at the back end – so you have different planks you can put on – Dillon makes one – but what it does is allow you to mix-and-match a lot of things. So our fuel tank here – that’s 60 gallons, so it gives you another two hours of fuel. If you’re firing an M-134, the cans are 3,000 rounds on each side. That’s 6,000 rounds of 7.62. If you’re firing the GAU-19, it’s 3,000. So significant amount of ammunition. Compare that to our competitors. So we carry more ammunition.
And then the dual weapons pylons – Hellfire, 7-shot rocket – you can mix-and-match – it has very high lateral CG, so we’re not afraid to mix-and-match weapons.”
“The engine: we have 250-C47E/1 (Rolls-Royce), which is a bit more powerful than our competitors – dual FADEC for reduced uncommanded failures, better performance – so that’s what we use in this aircraft. The same engine that the US Army’s been using for years. In their Kiowa Warriors and their Task Force 160, so it’s a very reliable engine.”
“Competitors: They don’t have an extra fuel tank. The planks where they mount their weapons is a fuel tank, but its’ not ballistic tolerant, which is an issue. So your weapons are hanging on a fuel tank. Different concept – works, right – but it also takes up more space so the weapons cans are a little bit less – they don’t carry as much weapons, ‘cos it’s sitting on those fuel tanks. So we’ve designed it to put it in the back. This is about 60 gallons. This is all engineered to fit.
This tank – it’s easy. If you want to slide it out, you can – put something else, put it right back in. You can fire a Herstal, like it’s out there on the MD – that’ll fit here – not a problem, so that’s self-contained and that would free all this space up for seats – put seats in the back.
Minutes, just minutes. It was designed for swapping and mission change.”
“This is a differentiator: 4,700 pounds – that’s max. gross weight. Useful load is 2,400 pounds. No restrictions on landing and taking off. With the competitors you can take off with a full load of gas and weapons and everything – you can’t land. You have to jettison or reduce the weight in order to land. That’s a big differentiator. We’re not constrained here with that restriction.”
SensorThat’s just a picture of this MX-15 and how much you can zoom – it’s a very capable stand-off sensor. Night and day – laser range finder and designator – automatic video tracker – it has a better GPS system – laser spot tracker – laser illuminator, so there’s a lot of capability in here, especially if you’re designating for a JDAM for fixed wing.
So it’s really good for interoperability with other services. This sensor is better than what’s on the Apache. Just more fidelity and clarity. Range is about the same as on the Apache.”
“They like it because it’s designed to go into austere environments and it doesn’t require a whole logistical trail like the Apache. Apache requires a support trail. This doesn’t – couple of tool boxes.
You could put troops on one side and weapons on the other if that’s what you want to do.”
Interoperability with Apache AH-64
The nation that doesn’t want to buy the big behemoth of the Apache can buy one of these and they’re almost connected.”
“It has obstacle avoidance. You could technically go inadvertent IMC – in the clouds or heavy fog, program the computer, this airplane will take you right back down and hover right down to where you took off from. If you did all the obstacle avoidance planning on the map displays, it’ll take you back. But it also has the capability to ILS, VOR – those things are in this aircraft.”
Data and Mission Computer
“It’s designed to keep the pilot outside the airplane. So all the critical information is here – so he has to wear goggles – his head is outside. It’s not inside looking at a display – everything is out.
It has the digital capability – aircraft-to-aircraft, aircraft-to-ground. You can plan the complete mission – this is nothing knew, just like the Apache. You plan the mission on a Mission Planning Station. You take a disk or a thumbdrive – you plug it in.
The mission computer – large amounts of data. Talked about sharing information. The best thing about this that you have the 30 and 40 years of Apache development that’s ported over to this airplane and the software is designed for a an attack helicopter pilot. It is not a commercial off-the-shelf software. So if you’re an attack helicopter pilot this was designed for you. It gives you better situational awareness.
This is the FLIR, but it also has a fly through on the map display where you can just fly through your terrain just using your computer database. So, enhances situational awareness and reduces pilot workload and we have the lowest operational cost – we can prove this with any aircraft in this class. Very low operational support cost. And that’s what, usually, when you buy a helicopter or any airplane – you find and very quickly discover it’s very expensive to maintain and support through it’s life cycle. This airplane is very low support cost.
We offer all different ranges of support, from just basic spares all the way up to full Performance Based Logistics package where we do everything. All they do is walk out and fly away.”
“Apache is 60 million. Depends on what you buy with it. This is about a third of that cost. So you could say an off-the-shelf price is – depends on what you want – a basic package is around 9 or 10 million – depends on how many airplanes you want to buy and what you want to put in it.
About a third of the cost of the Apache. But it really depends on what you buy. The weapons systems are expensive – the Dillon guns are 300,000 apiece. Start adding those things on and pretty soon the price goes up. Buy Hellfire – 80,000 dollar missile – so it really depends on what you buy.”
“The Philippines – they’re interested. Bangladesh – submitted paperwork. Of course Malaysia – they have a light attack helicopter requirement they’re trying to move toward. We’ve been asked to price 6, 12 and 24. It’s an FMS case.
The launch customer was Saudi Arabia National Guard. So, 24 airplanes with options for more. There are many Middle-East countries that are coming towards us – talking, actually had some paperwork in – lot of FMS working cases, where we haven’t signed any LOAs so there’s a lot of interest in this aircraft.”
Development and Upgrades
“Every time there’s a software change in the Apache, we can apply it to this. It’s all open system architecture, so the growth path in this is very good.
We developed it for the old army scout program and that fell through but we decided that there was an international market and that’s how we’re doing it. So we used a lot of the – of what Special Operations Command is telling us to do – we leveraged.”
“This airplane has been used of ships for many years. The taskforce – they don’t navalize it, they don’t maritime it – they just wash it a lot. You can marinize – you can dip – we have a process, if the customer wants we can dip it.”