The AH-1F Cobra Attack Helicopter was retired from the Army fleet in September 2001. Currently the inventory of airframes is being divested by a variety of methods that will make their final disposition most cost-effective to the Army. These methods include: harvesting parts to support U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force rotorcraft programs; transfer to other federal agencies for training devices; sales to foreign allied nations; and donations to qualified organizations for display/demonstration. Final demilitarization and disposal must be accomplished by September 30, 2006.
The Army's 2000 Aviation Force Modernization Plan noted that these aircraft possess "inadequate flight performance, weapons and mission equipment to meet requirements and are becoming increasingly problematic from a maintenance and safety standpoint" and called for their retirement in September 2001.
The AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird (Cayuse) Helicopter is in service with the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (SOAR). Following service in Vietnam, the Army's fleet of OH-6 light observation and command helicopters (LOACH) was reassigned to Army National Guard units. With their excellent roll-on/roll-off mobility and extremely high power-to-weight ratios, however, the aircraft subsequently were tapped for special operations applications in 1980.
Capability upgrades include performance, avionics, navigation, communications, targeting, weapons and night operations. Although primarily equipped with the 7.62 mm minigun or Hydra 70 (2.75-inch) rocket system, the AH-6/MH-6 can accommodate a range of gun and rocket options.
The mission-enhanced Little Bird (MELB) program is a major modification to the existing AH-6/MH-6 fleet. The modification is packaged as a kit that replaces existing components on the aircraft. The new MELB aircraft will have a six-blade main rotor system, a four-blade tail rotor, an improved drive train and the AlIison 250-C30R3 full-authority, digital-engine control (FADEC). The MELB also incorporates an improved landing gear, crashworthy fuel cells, enlarged rear doors and external extended-range fuel tanks. The MELB modifications will change the look and performance of the AH-6/MH-6 aircraft.
The MELB program aims to increase the performance and safety margins of the existing Little Bird aircraft. The modifications increase the maximum gross weight of the aircraft to 4,700 pounds; improve the high/hot performance capabilities of the aircraft; and move the extended-range fuel tanks from inside the cabin area, thereby increasing the cabin space available to the supported ground commander. In addition, there is a concurrent program to improve the weapon management system for the AH configuration. The MELB program boosts the performance and extends the life of the AH-6/MH-6 aircraft.
The AH-64A Apache Helicopter provides day, night and adverse weather attack helicopter capability. The Apache is the Army's primary attack helicopter. It is a quick-reacting, airborne weapon system that can fight both close and deep to destroy, disrupt or delay enemy forces. The Apache first entered service inventories in 1984.
The aircraft is designed to fight and survive throughout the world. It is equipped with a target acquisition designation sight and a pilot night-vision sensor that permit its two-man crew to navigate and attack in darkness and adverse weather. The Apache's principal mission is to destroy high-value targets with the Hellfire missile. It also is capable of employing a 30 mm M230 chin-mounted automatic cannon and Hydra 70 rockets that are lethal against a variety of targets.
The Apache has a maximum speed of 145 knots. It has a maximum gross weight range of 240 nautical miles (A model) and 230 nautical miles (D model) with range extension capability utilizing internal and external tanks. The Apache has a full range of aircraft survivability equipment and the ability to withstand hits from rounds up to 23 millimeters in critical areas. …