Boeing has flown its new light attack/reconnaissance helicopter for the first time in its production configuration. A prototype of the AH-6i was taken through preliminary tests in a flight lasting less than 20 minutes. The flight brings the model one step closer to full production.

The AH-6i, part of the AH-6 line, is designed to provide close-air support for land-based forces and to launch attacks on land-based facilities such as tanks, armored vehicles and fortifications. It is based on the OH-6A Cayuse, which was widely used during the Vietnam conflict, and is a more sophisticated version of the AH-6M that is currently used by the US Army Special Operations Forces.

The AH-6i uses a single turbine and features an advanced fuel system to give it an extended-range. It has a number of sensors that make it effective for day and night operations, and which provide operational flexibility. Its weapons configuration can also be easily changed and it makes use of a variety of technologies from the Boeing AH-64E Apache multi-role attack helicopter that Boeing says, "give it superior performance over other aircraft in its class."

During the test flight, Boeing pilots flew the AH-6i at low speeds and elevations. Forward, rearward and sideward movements were run through. Boeing AH-6 program director Scott Rudy explains that the successful completion of the flight will allow for more complex testing over the coming months and, ultimately, commercial production of the aircraft.

"This first AH-6 flight in the production configuration takes us closer to delivering an advanced light attack and reconnaissance helicopter that meets the needs of defense forces around the world," says Rudy.

Source: Boeing