Korean Air delivers first parts of Thai Army AH-6 Little Bird light attack/reconnaissance helicopter

Korean Air recently delivered its first AH-6 helicopter fuselage commissioned by Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS). Korean Air signed a contract with Boeing in December 2021 to manufacture a total of eight fuselages for AH-6 helicopters that will undergo final assembly by BDS.

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Korean Air delivers first parts of Thai Army AH 6i Littl Bird armed reconnaissance helicopter 1 First fuselage of one of the eight AH-6i Little Bird armed reconnaissance helicopters purchased by the Royal Thai Army (Picture source: Korean Air)

Korean Air was the first manufacturer of the 500MD helicopter in Korea and produced and sold 309 500MD helicopters to the military, public institutions and private companies from 1977 to 1988. The airline has also produced and exported 516 500MD fuselage, and recently, successfully carried out an unmanned 500MD project. Korean Air has a comprehensive maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) and aviation division, Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD). It has long supported US and Republic of Korea Armed Forces military aircraft in the region.

Helicopter fuselage manufacturing requires advanced and specialized technology, especially for parts such as the canopy and landing gear. Korean Air worked closely with its partner, Kencoa Aerospace, to successfully deliver its first fuselage. Following the success of this project, Korean Air plans to collaborate with Boeing to expand its overseas sales and new aircraft development and manufacturing business in the future.

Neither Korean Air nor Boeing has provided any further details on which fuselage of the eight AH-6 light attack helicopters is for customers. But, as Defense Studies writes, it is understood that the latest export customer announced for the Boeing AH-6i armed reconnaissance helicopter is the Royal Thai Army, which is scheduled for delivery during the year 2024-2025. The Royal Thai Army has signed a contract for the supply of 8 AH-6i Little Bird armed reconnaissance helicopters. $103,774,884 (approx. 3,342,589,014 baht) was announced by the US Department of Defense on February 18, 2022 after the US Department of State approved the sale to Thailand in 2019.

Proposal for the sale of armed reconnaissance helicopters Eight AH-6i(International) as well as approved weapons systems, equipment, and support including :
- 50 Lockheed Martin AGM-114R Hellfire air-to-surface missiles,
- 200 BAE Systems APKWS (Advance Precision Kill Weapon System) guided air-to-surface missiles, 10 six-barreled 7.62mm Dillion M134 Mini-Guns,
- Four General Dynamics GAU-19/B Gatling guns, 12.7mm triple-barreled guns, 500 rounds of 70mm Hydra air-to-ground rockets,
- 20 sets of night vision goggles (NVG: Night Vision Goggles) and
- WesCam MX-10Di EO/IR (Electro-Optical/Infrared) surveillance and targeting cameras.

The procurement will allow the Royal Thai Army to retire its 7 Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopters that have been used for a long time. “These AH-6i helicopters have reconnaissance and light attack capabilities for close air support to Special Operations Forces, Stryker Armored Infantry and Border Guard units,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said.

Korean Air delivers first parts of Thai Army AH 6i Littl Bird armed reconnaissance helicopter 3

AH-6 Little Bird light attack/reconnaissance helicopter (Picture source: Boeing)