Representatives with Boeing tell ANN
the company has flown its newly designed A/MH-6X light-turbine
helicopter for the first time, marking a significant milestone in
the continuing development of the versatile manned/unmanned
The aircraft combines the performance of the A/MH-6M Mission
Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) with the unmanned aerial vehicle
technologies of the Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) Demonstrator, a
modified MD-530F civil helicopter that has been in development
"The A/MH-6X is the first true hybrid manned/unmanned aircraft,
adding another mission capability to the combat-proven,
multi-mission MELB helicopter," said Dino Cerchie, Boeing Advanced
Rotorcraft Systems Unmanned Little Bird program manager. "The
A/MH-6X Little Bird offers exciting new possibilities for an
already outstanding platform."
The A/MH-6X lifted off September 20 at the Boeing Rotorcraft
Systems facility in Mesa, AZ and flew as a piloted aircraft for
approximately 14 minutes before landing safely. Following the
flight, Boeing test pilot Todd Brown reported, "The aircraft flew
great. It is very responsive and delivers outstanding
Future testing will expand the manned and unmanned envelopes.
Aircraft performance will be similar to the ULB Demonstrator with
an additional 1,000 pounds of payload that can be used for
increased range, endurance or mission hardware. Total payload for
the ULB Demonstrator is greater than 2,400 pounds.
Boeing designed and developed the derivative helicopter for both
military and civilian applications, including Homeland Defense. The
helicopter's external appearance and mechanical systems are similar
to the operational A/MH-6M helicopter flown by the U.S. Army's
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Boeing made the most significant modifications to the cockpit
avionics and electrical systems. The A/MH-6X aircraft has a
prototype "glass" cockpit that provides system redundancy and
additional technologies in digital maps and data fusion. It also
has many network-centric features like Ku-band communication,
digital radios, Internet Protocol-addressable aircraft systems and
on-board, high bandwidth data processing and storage.
"The unmanned hardware and capability developed in this program
can be installed in any helicopter," said Cerchie. "The A/MH-6X
Little Bird aircraft provides exceptional performance, capability
and reliability for manned or unmanned missions in a compact,
highly transportable aircraft that can leverage many existing
qualified aircraft systems.
"The demonstrator, which first flew just over two years ago, has
logged nearly 500 manned and unmanned flight hours," he added. "The
first flight of this much more capable A/MH-6X was a logical
extension of an outstanding developmental program. The team has
made it look easy, but it has taken a lot of hard work by some very
Boeing is preparing the manned/unmanned aircraft variant for
domestic and international markets.
"The desire and need for an all-purpose compact workhorse is
there, whether it's manned or unmanned," Cerchie added. "This
aircraft is the low cost solution for urban or confined operational
areas, where full mission capability and connectivity are