The Boeing A/MH-6 Little Bird special operations helicopter sports a benign name that belies its lethal power. Derived from the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse single-engine light observation rotorcraft design developed in the early 1960s, the Little Bird began service with Task Force 160, the special operations aviation unit created after the failed Iranian hostage rescue mission in 1980. Task Force leaders chose the OH-6 because of its high maneuverability, mission flexibility, compact size, ability to take off and land in restricted areas, and because it is easily carried in transport aircraft to staging locations anywhere in the world. The OH-6 had proven its capabilities during extensive service in Vietnam, where it earned the nickname Loach (from the mission designation, light observation helicopter [LOH]).

The Army modified OH-6s as MH-6 assault helicopters with bench seats installed on the skids to carry up to six special ops troops into battle and AH-6 attack helos, armed with guns, missiles or rockets. Each variant typically flies with two pilots. With formidable armament and coats of black paint for reduced visibility, Little Birds acquired an intimidating appearance that matched their battle capabilities.

Task Force 160 became the 160th Aviation Battalion, reconstituted in 1990 as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) as the unit grew.  Known as the “Night Stalkers,” one measure of the 160th’s lethality is its motto: “Death Waits in the Dark.”  Little Birds have remained unit linchpins for nearly 30 years and help underline this slogan.  Today, Company A, 1st Battalion of the 160th flies MH-6M aircraft on light assault missions, and Company B, 1st Battalion, flies AH-6M helicopters for light attack.  Both companies are based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  The versatile rotorcraft has played prominent combat roles in Panama, Grenada, the Persian Gulf and Iraq.  Everyone who saw the movie, Black Hawk Down, remembers the riveting scenes of Little Birds on daylight and night strafing runs to protect Rangers and troops surrounded by Somali insurgents in Mogadishu.

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The Boeing A/MH-6 Little Bird special operations helicopter sports a benign name that belies…