Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Boeing upgrades special operations’ unique helicopter

U.S. aerospace giant Boeing is upgrading the fleet of unique helicopters that used for special operations in the United States Army under the Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) program.

The SOF-unique helicopter, called the A/MH-6 Little Bird, is a light attack helicopter developed in close collaboration with SOF operators and combat developers.

The MELB program covers the upgrade of the main components of the A/MH-6 Little Bird helicopter to improve the safety margin, flight controls, and update cockpit. The improved helicopter received new rotor blades, longer tail boom, a new rear gearbox.


The MELB in Block 3.0 new configuration also includes a better ability to fly at high altitudes in hot weather, a 500 pound higher payload capacity, improved flight controls, and an improved cockpit with a full moving map. The max gross weight of the A/MH-6 has increased from 2400 lbs (-6A) to 4700+ lbs.

Photo courtesy of the United States Special Operations Command

Through the upgrading, Boeing creates an entirely new combat aircraft based on an ageing helicopter, which will meet all the modern requirements of Special Operations Command.

Earlier this year, SOCOM has announced plans to extend the service life of the A/MH-6 Little Bird helicopter into the 2030s before it finally retires. But stressed that it faces a decision point in 2024 when the command will have to decide whether to upgrade the Little Birds to a Block 3.1 configuration or procure a replacement under U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

Photo courtesy of the United States Special Operations Command

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About this Author

Dylan Malyasov
Defense journalist and commentator. Aviation photographer. Dylan leads Defence Blog's coverage of global military news, focusing on engineering and technology across the U.S. defense industry.