In the 60s, the construction of anti-tank helicopters in Europe was very limited, which was determined by both the imperfection of the helicopters themselves and the low characteristics of guided missile systems. The military were suspicious of chirping rotary-wing vehicles, which had a low speed, duration and range of flight. The relatively low carrying capacity of light helicopters did not allow to protect the cockpit and the most vulnerable units with armor and equip them with powerful weapons. In addition, the first guided anti-tank missiles, aimed at a target with a manual joystick, by commands transmitted over a thin wire, depended very much on the qualifications of the targeting operator, and therefore were not very popular among the troops. Light helicopters were mainly used for the delivery of urgent correspondence, reconnaissance, adjusting artillery fire and evacuating the wounded.
The first relatively effective anti-tank European helicopter can be considered the Aerospatiale SA.316В Alouette III, which in 1967 was equipped with an ARX-334 stabilized sight, a SACLOS semi-automatic guidance system and improved AS.11 Harpon anti-tank missiles.
However, much more often helicopters armed with rifle-caliber machine guns, a 20-mm cannon and a French or American-made 68-70-mm NAR were used in hostilities. This was due to the fact that "Aluets", as a rule, were involved in various kinds of anti-partisan operations, against an enemy that did not have armored vehicles and with relatively weak air defense.
Combat helicopters "Aluet" III of the South African Air Force in the 80s were used during the invasion of Angola. Faced with strong opposition in the form of MANPADS and anti-aircraft installations of 12, 7, 14, 5, 23 and 57-mm and Cuban MiG-23 fighters, the crews of South African helicopters were forced to act very carefully, but several Aluets were still lost in the course of hostilities. Although the operation of helicopters of this type in the South African Air Force continued until 2006, already in the mid-80s they refused to use them as anti-tank helicopters.
The SA.319 Alouette III was developed on the basis of the SA.316. This machine, with a maximum takeoff weight of 2250 kg, could take a payload of 750 kg. Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engine with 570 hp could accelerate the helicopter to a speed of 220 km / h. Practical flight range - up to 540 km.
"Aluet" III was popular with foreign buyers. On the basis of licensed copies in Yugoslavia and Romania, their own light anti-tank helicopters were created, armed with the Malyutka ATGM, 57-mm NAR C-5 and machine guns.
The SA became a full-fledged light anti-tank helicopter. 342 Gazelle, equipped with an ARX-334 gyro-stabilized sight. This helicopter was created by the French company Aerospatiale in cooperation with the British Westland. The armament of the early anti-tank modifications of the SA 342 included: four wire-guided AS.11 ATGMs, two AS.12 air-to-ground missiles, two NAR containers of 68, 70 or 81-mm caliber, two rifle-caliber machine guns or one GIAT cannon in 20 mm. The AS.12 rocket weighing 76 kg had a guidance system similar to the AS.11. With a launch range of up to 7000 m, the missile carried a 28 kg semi-armor-piercing warhead. The main purpose of the UR AS.12 was the destruction of point stationary ground targets and the fight against ships of small displacement. But if necessary, this missile could be used against armored vehicles or the defeat of manpower. For this, the troops were supplied with replaceable cumulative and fragmentation warheads. This, however, does not mean that the target launch range on the tank was greater than on the AS.11 - the primitive guidance system at a distance of more than 3000 m gave too much error. On later models, 4-6 HOT ATGMs with an ARX-379 gyro-stabilized sight were added to the Gazelle's armament.
The light anti-tank helicopter SA.342 Gazelle is developed on the basis of the multipurpose helicopter SA. 341 Gazelle. The helicopter differs from the predecessor of the Astazou XIV GTE with a capacity of 640 kV and two hardpoints for placing weapons. In total, more than 200 "Gazelles" were built, equipped with ATGM "Hot". The hallmark of "Gazelles" of all modifications is the tail rotor of the "fenestron" type with a diameter of 0, 695 m, with a rigid attachment of the blades. It is installed in an annular vertical tail channel.
Light combat "Gazelles" enjoyed success in the world arms market. In the late 70s - early 80s, in terms of price-quality ratio, this car did not have many competitors. In the early 80s, for a helicopter equipped with an ATGM, they asked for about $ 250,000. At the same time, the machine had sufficiently high flight data for that time. The maximum flight speed was 310 km / h, cruising speed was 265 km / h. Combat radius of action - 280 km. In terms of maneuverability, the Gazelle was superior to the American Cobra and the Soviet Mi-24. However, the French helicopter had almost no armor, in this regard, the pilots had to make combat missions in body armor and titanium helmets. But "Gazelle" with ATGM from the very beginning was not considered as an attack aircraft. To combat tanks, appropriate tactics were developed. The helicopter, after detecting enemy armored vehicles, using the uneven terrain and natural shelters, had to covertly approach it, and after the launch of the ATGM, retreat as quickly as possible. The most optimal was a surprise attack due to the folds of the terrain with a short (20-30 s) rise to launch an ATGM and hovering at an altitude of 20-25 m. elimination of such "wedges", or the attack of tanks moving on the march as part of a column, it was supposed to inflict flank strikes.
Anti-tank missile system HOT (fr. Haut subsonique Optiquement teleguide tire d'un Tube - which can be translated as "Subsonic optical guidance missile launched from a tube-container"), developed by the Franco-German consortium Euromissile, entered service in 1975.
The storage and launch of a wire-guided anti-tank missile is carried out from a sealed fiberglass container. The mass of the equipped container with ATGM is 29 kg. The launch mass of the rocket is 23.5 kg. The maximum launch range is 4000 m. On the trajectory, the ATGM develops a speed of up to 260 m / s. According to the manufacturer's data, a cumulative warhead weighing 5 kg is capable of normal penetrating 800 mm of homogeneous armor, and at a meeting angle of 65 °, the thickness of the penetrated armor is 300 mm. But in a number of sources, the declared characteristics of armor penetration are considered overestimated.
In the process of guiding the rocket, the operator must continuously keep the crosshair of the optical sight on the target, and the IR tracking system displays the rocket after the start on the aiming line. When the ATGM deviates from the aiming line, the commands generated by the electronic equipment are transmitted by wire to the missile board. The received commands are decoded on board and transmitted to the thrust vector control device. All missile guidance operations on the target are performed automatically.
ATGM "Hot" has been adopted in 19 countries. Since the start of serial production, about 85,000 missiles have been sold. More than 700 combat helicopters are equipped with this ATGM. Since 1998, the construction of a variant, designated HOT-3, has been underway. This modification with a launch range of up to 4300 m is equipped with a new anti-jamming bispectral tracking equipment and carries a tandem warhead with a laser fuse and a fired precharge, which provides an increase in the time delay between explosions of charges to overcome dynamic protection.
SA.342F Gazelle with four HOT missiles entered service in France in 1979. Modifications of SA.342L were exported. The stabilized ATGM guidance system is equipped with a sight mounted above the cockpit. The upgraded version of Gazelle HOT / Viviane received new HOT-3 ATGMs.
Anti-tank "Gazelles" were in service in more than 30 countries, mainly in the "developing". The baptism of fire of the Iraqi SA.342L took place during the Iran-Iraq war. The Gazelles together with the Mi-25 (export version of the Mi-24D) attacked Iranian troops. But the tactics of using combat helicopters of Soviet and French production were different. The well-protected and more high-speed Mi-25 mainly provided fire support, firing 57-mm unguided C-5 rockets at the enemy. Although the Phalanx and Hot anti-tank systems had approximately the same launch ranges and missile flight speeds, the Iraqis liked the guidance equipment of the French complex more. In addition, the French ATGM had great armor penetration. However, a number of sources say that the Hot missiles of the first series had reliability problems. Since the SA.342 Gazelle was not covered by armor and could easily be hit even with small arms, the Gazelle crews, whenever possible, tried to launch missiles, being over the location of their own troops or over neutral territory outside the range of enemy anti-aircraft guns.
In 1977, Syria signed a contract for the purchase of 30 SA-342K Gazelles with old AS-11 ATGMs. In 1979, 16 more SA-342Ls were received, equipped with HOT guided missiles and a perfect guidance system. As a result, by the 1982 war, the Syrians had an SA-342K / L helicopter brigade, consisting of three squadrons.
In the summer of 1982, the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon. The goal of the Israelis was to eliminate the armed formations of the PLO in southern Lebanon. At the same time, the Israeli command hoped that Syria would not intervene in the hostilities. However, after parts of the regular Syrian army got involved in the conflict, the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians faded into the background.
The main task of the Syrian units, which were seriously inferior in number to the Israeli group, was the destruction of the advancing armored vehicles. The situation of the Israelis was complicated by the fact that Israeli equipment literally blocked most of the roads along which the offensive was carried out. In these conditions, taking into account the difficult terrain, "Gazelles", armed with ATGMs, were almost ideal. Judging by the archival documents, the first attack of a flight of anti-tank helicopters took place on June 8 in the area of Mount Jebel Sheikh. In several days of fierce fighting, according to Syrian data, Gazelles, which flew more than 100 sorties, managed to knock out 95 units of Israeli equipment, including 71 tanks. Other sources give more realistic figures: about 30 tanks, including Merkava, Magah 5 and Magah 6, 5 M113 armored personnel carriers, 3 trucks, 2 artillery pieces, 9 M-151 jeeps and 5 tankers. It is not known whether helicopters armed with AS-11 ATGMs were used in the fighting, or whether all Israeli equipment was hit by Hot missiles. Despite their own losses, the Gazelle anti-tank helicopters in the 1982 war, even against such a serious enemy as Israel, proved to be quite good.
In turn, the Israelis claim 12 destroyed Gazelles. The loss of four SA-342s has been documented. At the same time, two helicopters made an emergency landing in the territory occupied by Israeli forces, and were subsequently taken out, restored and used in the Israeli Air Force.
The history of the combat use of the Gazelle did not end there. Syrian SA-342, despite their advanced age, were used during the civil war. Taking into account 15 additional helicopters purchased in 1984, about 30 machines remained in service as of 2012.
In August 2014, a Syrian state television report reported that Gazelles armed with anti-tank missiles were involved in the defense of Tabka airbase. However, no details were given about their combat successes. There is a high probability that the Syrian Air Force still has Gazelles in flight condition. In general, it can be stated that the SA-342, purchased by Syria 40 years ago, has become quite a successful acquisition.
In the first half of the 70s, Yugoslavia purchased the first batch of 21 SA.341H helicopters from France. Later, these helicopters were built under license at the enterprise and the SOKO company in Mostar (132 machines were built). In 1982, the serial assembly of the SA.342L modification began in Yugoslavia (about 100 helicopters were produced).
Unlike the French Gazelles, the helicopters built in Yugoslavia were armed with four Soviet Malyutka ATGMs. Compared to the AS.11 and NOT missiles, the Soviet ATGM was a simpler and more budgetary option. But "Baby" had a shorter launch range and worse armor penetration. In the 90s, "Gazelles" were used during hostilities in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, while several vehicles were shot down by MANPADS and anti-aircraft guns.
Along with the Soviet Mi-24 and the American Cobra, the Gazelle anti-tank helicopter has become one of the most frequently used in combat. In the 1980s, Lebanese Air Force helicopters took an active part in the civil war. Around the same time, 24 Moroccan SA-342Ls were fighting the armored vehicles of the Front Polisario units. It is believed that the Gazelle crews in Western Sahara managed to destroy 18 T-55 tanks and about three dozen vehicles. In 1990, France handed over 9 SA.342M to the Rwandan government. In 1992, during the interethnic conflict, helicopters attacked the positions of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The Rwandan Gazelles have wrecked tanks and armored vehicles. In October 1992, the crew of one helicopter during the attack of a convoy of armored vehicles of the RPF managed to destroy six armored vehicles.
Almost simultaneously with the French "Gazelle" in Germany, the Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm company created the Bo 105 helicopter. Outwardly, with the exception of the "Fenestron", it looked a lot like the "Gazelle". The helicopter is made according to a single-rotor scheme, with a tail rotor and a ski landing gear. But unlike the SA.342, it was a twin-engine machine with an Allison 250-C20B turboshaft gas turbine engine with a takeoff power of 313 kW each. If one engine fails, the other is switched to emergency operation, which allows you to return to your airfield. Thanks to a more powerful power plant, the Vo 105 could take a greater load compared to the Gazelle, and the maximum take-off weight of the German aircraft was 250 kg more and amounted to 2500 kg. The flight data of the German helicopter turned out to be quite high. Maximum speed - 270 km / h, cruising speed - 240 km / h. Combat radius of action - more than 300 km. Combat load - 456 kg.
The first flight of Bo 105 took place on February 16, 1967, and in 1970 the production of serial machines began. The helicopter possessed very good maneuverability, which the manufacturing company did not hesitate to take advantage of, advertising the Bo 105 at aerospace shows. During the demonstration flights, extremely lightweight machines operated by experienced pilots performed aerobatics. It was noted that the West German helicopter has a high rate of climb, and the operational overload is 3.5G.
In 1975, the Bundeswehr command decided to order 212 anti-tank Bo 105 PAH-1 helicopters with ATGM NOT. On the modernized anti-tank modification Bo 105 PAH-1A1 with ATGM NOT-2, the French sighting and surveillance aiming system SLIM was installed, with television and IR channels and a laser rangefinder. The most noticeable external difference of the modernized version was the different arrangement of the plastic containers of the ATGM.
Starting in 2007, the German anti-tank Bo 105 began to be gradually replaced by the latest Tiger attack helicopters. Vehicles suitable for further use were disarmed by dismantling the sighting and search equipment. The use of Vo 105 as intelligence and liaison officers in the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany continued until 2016.
In addition to anti-tank guided missiles, at the request of customers, the VO 105 can be equipped with a suspension of 7, 62-12, 7-mm machine guns, 20-mm cannons and NAR blocks. The deliveries of anti-tank helicopters were carried out from 1978 to 1984. At the end of the 80s, the cost of the Bo 105 PAH-1A1 anti-tank helicopter in the foreign market was $ 2 million.
The composition of the armament and avionics of export vehicles could be very different from the German version. Due to the fact that the NOT ATGM had problems with reliability, a number of foreign buyers preferred the American TOW anti-tank missiles.
Although the armed modifications of the Bo 105 were supplied to two dozen countries, no reliable information about the combat use of the helicopter could be found. However, given the fact that the Bo 105 was operated by the armed forces of such states as Iraq, Sudan, Colombia, Peru and South Africa, it can be assumed that German-made helicopters still had a chance to fight.
In February 1991, an Iraqi attack helicopter was shot down by an American A-10A attack aircraft. It is reliably known about the use of Bo 105 of the Mexican Navy in operations to intercept high-speed boats on which drug traffickers delivered cocaine to the United States. South Korean combat helicopters, in turn, had fire contact with North Korean small vessels. The latest incident involving Vo 105 took place in the capital of Venezuela, Caracas on June 27, 2017. Then the pilot of the hijacked police helicopter attacked the Supreme Court building.
In the first post-war decades in Great Britain, little attention was paid to the creation of rotary-wing machines. Perhaps the only firm that seriously dealt with helicopters in the United Kingdom was Westland. This company, founded in 1915, has created more than 20 models of aircraft for various purposes before being renamed in 1961 in Westland Helicopters. In the 60s, Westland concentrated its efforts on the development and production of helicopters. At first, the licensed assembly of American S-51 and S-55 developed by Sikorsky was carried out at the company's production facilities. The Mi-1 and Mi-4 can be considered the Soviet counterparts of these machines. However, by the beginning of the 60s, it became clear that piston-powered helicopters no longer meet modern requirements. Therefore, specialists from the Westland design bureau in Yeovil began developing a multi-purpose rotorcraft designed for transport, evacuation of the wounded, reconnaissance and fire support. The helicopter with a crew of two was supposed to provide transportation of seven paratroopers, at a cruising speed of at least 250 km. The range, depending on the size of the payload, is 65 - 280 km. The development of a promising machine was greatly slowed down due to the participation of Westland specialists in the creation of the French-British Gazelle and Puma helicopters. At first, the Lynx (Lynx) helicopter was also designed in conjunction with the French company Aérospatiale. From the very beginning, two options were developed: naval and for ground forces. But in 1969, the French, quite satisfied with the Gazelle, canceled the order for an attack reconnaissance helicopter. This affected the pace of work, and the first flight of the prototype took place on March 21, 1971. Lynx's tests were going pretty hard. Of the first four prototypes, two were seriously damaged in flight accidents. Although soon after the start of the tests, it was possible to develop a speed of more than 300 km / h in horizontal flight, for a long time one of the main problems was the high level of vibration in flight at a speed of more than 100 km / h.
The Lynx AH. Mk 1 multipurpose helicopter for the British Army took off on April 12, 1972. The power plant, consisting of a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2 turboshaft engines with a capacity of 900 hp, provided a maximum flight speed of 306 km / h. Cruising speed - 259 km / h.
Although the appearance of the Lynx was rather ordinary, the helicopter had very good data and high modernization potential. The British managed to create a really very good transport and combat vehicle. A helicopter with a maximum takeoff weight of 4535 kg could take on board a 900 kg load or transport 1360 kg on an external sling. Combat radius of action exceeded 300 km. The passenger compartment housed 9 soldiers with weapons or 3 lying wounded with accompanying persons. In the attack version, the helicopter could carry two 20-mm cannons with a total ammunition load of 570 rounds, 12, 7 and 7, 62-mm machine guns, two 68-70-mm NAR blocks, 8 BGM-71 TOW or HOT ATGMs. Four ATGM launchers were located on the side of the cargo compartment, and the American M65 gyro-stabilized sight was on the left on the roof of the pilot's cabin.
Operation of the anti-tank AH. Mk 1 in the British Rhine Army began in the summer of 1978. Soon "Lynx" supplanted all Scout AH. Mk 1, armed with ATGM AS.11. A feature of the Lynx, armed with anti-tank missiles, was the transportation of spare ammunition inside the cargo compartment, which made it possible to quickly reload by the crew.
In 1988, supplies of the Lynx AH. Mk 7 helicopter to the troops began. The helicopter was equipped with two Rolls-Royce Gem Mk 42-1 gas turbine engines with a capacity of 1120 hp and a new transmission. At the same time, only 5 cars were built from scratch, the rest were altered from previously released modifications. During the creation of the modernized helicopter, much attention was paid to reducing the level of vibration and noise in the cockpit. For this, a damper was installed on the AH. Mk 7 model to damp the oscillations generated by the main rotor and the direction of rotation of the tail rotor was reversed. To reduce visibility in the infrared range, special diffusers were installed on the exhaust nozzles of the engines at the junction of the tail boom with the fuselage. Now the jet of hot exhaust gases was thrown into a larger volume of air, and their temperature decreased significantly. The avionics included a surveillance and sighting system with an infrared and low-level television camera. This significantly increased the combat capabilities of the helicopter during operations in bad weather and at night.
In 1989, Lynx AH. Mk 9 began to enter the 2nd squadron of the 9th regiment of the 24th airborne brigade. The main purpose of the AH Mk 9 is to combat enemy armored vehicles. A distinctive feature of the AH Mk 9 was the use of new more tenacious blades of the carrier system and a non-retractable wheeled chassis. A total of 16 new helicopters were built, and 8 more were converted from the AH Mk 7. As with previous models, the main anti-tank caliber of the AH Mk 9 is the TOW ATGM. There are also several helicopters equipped with HOT-2 and Hellfire missiles.
The next modification was the Lynx AH.9A with 1362 hp LHTEC CTS800-4N forced engines. and with avionics of the AW159 Lynx Wildcat helicopter. Thanks to the increased thrust-to-weight ratio, flight data has significantly improved, and the dial gauges have been replaced by multifunctional color displays. The delivery of a batch of 22 AH.9A helicopters was completed in December 2011. In addition to army aviation, several vehicles entered the Navy for fire support of the Royal Marines. Of the approximately 470 Lynx built, only about 150 helicopters were intended for army aviation, and not all of them were equipped with ATGMs and sighting and search equipment. The main part of the helicopters was produced in the naval version.
In 1991, British anti-tank Lynxes were involved in an operation against Saddam Hussein's troops. According to British data, 24 helicopters participated in the company. They operated in Kuwait and southern Iraq. Having made a little more than 100 sorties, the Lynxes destroyed four T-55 tanks and two MT-LB armored tracked tractors with anti-tank missiles. In 2003, Lynx AH.7 helicopters provided fire support to coalition forces in Iraq, but their combat success was not reported. On May 6, 2006, Lynx AH.7 with the number XZ6140 was shot down by a MANPADS missile over Basra, according to other sources, the helicopter fell as a result of being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from an RPG-7. In the same 2006, the British "Links" were deployed in Afghanistan. On April 26, 2014, Lynx AH.9A, numbered ZF540, crashed near Kandahar. All five people on board died, there is no reliable information about the reasons for the loss of the helicopter. In the course of hostilities, the Lynx's vulnerability was revealed even when fired from small arms, which, however, was quite predictable for a helicopter unprotected by armor.
On the whole, the Lynx turned out to be a very good machine, and in the late 70s, after the elimination of "children's sores", it looked very worthy against the background of other universal transport and attack helicopters. The British car stood out for its high flight speed, good maneuverability, carrying capacity and flight range. But compared to the American UH-1, the German Bo 105, the French Aluets and Gazelles, the British helicopter cost significantly more. For this reason, as an anti-tank helicopter, customers with limited means chose lighter and more inexpensive vehicles. In addition, it would be wrong to consider the unarmored Lynx as a full-fledged combat helicopter.
Until the second half of the 1980s, there were actually two real combat helicopters in the world, with more or less balanced characteristics of firepower, protection, speed and maneuverability: the Soviet Mi-24 and the American AN-1 Cobra. However, many countries felt the need for inexpensive anti-tank helicopters, and therefore relatively light, weakly protected or generally unarmored vehicles were used in this role. In addition to the already mentioned Aluets, Gazelles, Bo 105 and Lynxes, the Hughes Model 500 Defender was popular in pro-American countries. This light combat helicopter is designed on the basis of the civilian model Hughes 500, the prototype of which, in turn, was the light multipurpose OH-6A Cayuse. "Keyus" was originally intended for reconnaissance, observation and adjustment of artillery fire. In the design of the helicopter, attention is drawn to the large, drop-shaped two-seater glass cockpit, which provides excellent visibility to the crew. To support the actions of special operations forces, some of the vehicles were converted into an armed version of the AH-6C. These helicopters carried six-barreled 7, 62-mm machine guns and 70-mm NAR blocks.
The relatively inexpensive and highly successful Hughes helicopters enjoyed success in the market. For civilian buyers, the Hughes Model 500 was created, which differed from the OH-6 in the more powerful Allison 250-C18A engine with a capacity of 317 hp. with., increased fuel supply and updated on-board equipment. Based on the Hughes Model 500, a light military helicopter Model 500D Defender (OH-6D Super Scout) was built. Its armament included four seven-shot 70-mm NAR blocks of 70 mm caliber or two eleven-shot blocks and two containers with six-barreled M-134 machine guns of 7, 62-mm or 40-mm grenade launchers. The maximum payload is 430 kg. In another variant of the combat load, missile launchers were placed on one side, and on the other a container with a 12, 7-mm machine gun or a 20-mm cannon. Placing significant weapons on the external sling caused a noticeable drop in flight data - speed and range. Therefore, in the standard version, the armament was located on only two external nodes.
The internal volume of the Defender's cockpit was very limited, which prevented the installation of ATGM guidance equipment, and the carrying capacity of the helicopter itself did not allow the simultaneous use of NAR, machine-gun artillery weapons and guided anti-tank missiles. In 1976, a modification of the Model 500 TOW Defender appeared, an American M65 gyro-stabilized sight was installed on the outer nose of the cockpit, and four TOW ATGMs on the outer nodes.
A helicopter with a maximum takeoff weight of 1360 kg could develop in horizontal flight - 257 km / h. Cruising speed - 236 km / h. The combat radius for a vehicle of this class was very significant - more than 300 km. The helicopter was very easy to fly and possessed excellent maneuverability and high rate of climb (8.5 m / s). The lack of armor was partly offset by the small geometrical dimensions and maneuverable characteristics. When used in the anti-tank version, the effectiveness of the Defender was close to that of the Cobra armed with the Tou ATGM. At the same time, the Model 500 TOW Defender cost half as much and quite predictably attracted foreign customers. In total, about 500 helicopters were built, but how many of them in the anti-tank version are not known.
Armed modifications of Model 500 helicopters were used in a number of local wars. The most large-scale conflict, where the Defender was used with an ATGM, was the 1982 Israeli summer campaign. Three dozen Model 500 TOW Defenders were received by the Israeli Air Force in 1979. By 1982, Israeli crews had mastered their combat vehicles well. Israeli anti-tank "Defenders" were used against the Syrian armored vehicles along with the more protected from anti-aircraft fire AH-1S. By the beginning of hostilities in the Israeli Air Force, "Defenders" equipped with ATGMs were almost twice as many as "Cobras".
Crews of Israeli combat helicopters announced the defeat of 50 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers. At the same time, more than 130 sorties were carried out. Unfortunately, there is no data on the effectiveness of attacks for each specific type of combat helicopter. In addition, it is not clear whether the Israeli statistics only take into account hits or whether we are talking about irrevocably destroyed armored vehicles. It is known that during the fighting in Lebanon there were cases of ATGM "Tou" hitting the frontal projection of the Syrian T-72 tanks, but the frontal armor was not pierced.
In the course of hostilities, both the strengths and weaknesses of the Defenders were revealed. Thanks to better maneuverability, light helicopters were faster than armored Cobras in the attack line. Compared to the "Cobra", flights at extremely low altitudes with around uneven terrain on the "Defender" were much easier. Also, the lighter helicopter was easier to control in hover mode or when maneuvering at low speed. "Defender" could move freely sideways and back. It has been noted that the time and cost of preparing the Model 500 for re-flight is much less. At the same time, a high vulnerability to combat damage was revealed. The lack of armor and special measures to increase combat survivability affected the level of combat losses. Although there is no reliable information about the number of Defenders lost during the hostilities, after 1982, 6 more vehicles were additionally purchased. Apparently, the reasons for the loss of the Model 500 TOW Defender in the Israeli Air Force were not only the actions of the Syrian air defense. Due to some external resemblance of the "Defender" to the "Gazelle", tankers and anti-aircraft gun crews of units that had previously been attacked by Syrian anti-tank helicopters opened "friendly fire" on Israeli helicopters several times. Thus, one Israeli Defender was badly damaged by a fragmentation shell fired from a Merkava tank gun. The shell exploded, hitting the rock next to which the spinner hovered. At the same time, the ATGM operator was wounded, and the helicopter made an emergency landing next to the tank that had knocked it out. Nevertheless, "Defender" has confirmed the ability to successfully act as an anti-tank helicopter. As you know, the Israelis are very scrupulous in the choice of military equipment and weapons, and immediately get rid of samples that have negatively proven themselves in battle. Apparently, this does not apply to the "Defender", helicopters of this type were removed from service in Israel only in 1997.
In August 1985, in connection with the purchase of Hughes Helicopters by McDonnell Douglas Corporation, the designation of the Model 500 helicopter was changed to MD 500. disputes with neighbors. Often, the MD 500 was delivered unarmed as purely civilian vehicles and was armed on the spot. Re-export MD 500s have been scattered around the world and have been involved in many "low intensity" conflicts. This is especially true for the countries of Africa, Asia, South and Central America. So, in El Salvador, 6 MD 500D and 9 MD 500E acted against the rebels. Several helicopters were shot down by small arms fire and Strela-2M MANPADS. By the time the armistice was concluded between the government and the rebels, 7 helicopters remained in the ranks.
In 1986, the DPRK, through several intermediaries, managed to purchase 87 unarmed MD 500E. Initially, helicopters were used as messengers for reconnaissance and surveillance. Since the MD 500 is used by the South Korean armed forces, several helicopters were given South Korean insignia and camouflage, after which they were used to send saboteurs.
According to South Korean data, about 60 North Korean MD 500Es are equipped with the Malyutka ATGM. Although obsolete Soviet missiles are inferior to the latest versions of the Tou ATGM in terms of launch range and armor penetration thickness, North Korea does not have other specialized combat helicopters.
MD 500E, armed with anti-tank missiles, were shown at a military parade in 2013. Apparently, a significant part of the North Korean MD 500E is still in flight condition. This is facilitated by the relatively simple design of the helicopter and the availability of spare parts on the world market.
Despite the fact that the first flight of the Hughes Model 500 took place in February 1963, the improvement and creation of new military models continues to this day. On the basis of the MD 520 and MD 530 modifications, several shock variants have been created, differing in the power plant, avionics and weapons composition.
The MD 530 Defender helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 1610 kg is equipped with a new 650 hp Allison 250-C30B engine. Maximum flight speed - 282 km / h, cruising speed - 230 km / h. Payload weight increased to 900 kg. At the request of the customer, the helicopter can be equipped with equipment that makes it possible to perform combat missions at night. This modification is known as the MD 530 NightFox.
Serial production of the MD 530F Cayuse Warrior is currently underway. In August 2016, the first four helicopters of this type, intended for the Afghan Air Force, were delivered by the C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft. The initial order provides for the supply of 24 helicopters, in total, over the next 5 years, the Afghan Air Force should receive 48 light attack vehicles. Since the Taliban do not have armored vehicles, the basic configuration for the Afghan Air Force MD 530F Cayuse Warrior is armed with NAR units, and HMP400 suspended machine-gun containers manufactured by the Belgian company FN with 12, 7-mm machine guns (rate of fire 1100 rds / min, 400 rounds of ammunition). If necessary, the helicopter can be quickly armed with a TOW ATGM.
The pilots have at their disposal satellite navigation equipment, modern communications and night vision goggles. To reduce vulnerability during shelling from the ground, the cabin and some of the units have local booking. Fuel tanks with a total capacity of 500 liters are sealed and can withstand bullets of 12, 7-mm bullets.
To support the American special operations forces, the AH-6 Little Bird combat helicopter was created. This miniature highly maneuverable vehicle took part in many covert operations around the world, and in some cases served as a "life buoy" for special forces operating in enemy territory. Despite its modest size, the effectiveness of the Little Bird under the control of a well-trained crew can be very high.
The helicopter entered service in 1980 as a modification of the OH-6 Cayuse and has been actively used since its inception. The choice of this particular model is due to the fact that the size and weight of the machine allows it to be easily transported to its destination by air transport aircraft of the US Air Force. In the aviation unit of the special operations forces, a light combat helicopter was tested, with an overhead search and survey night optoelectronic system. With the help of it, the helicopter could review and search for targets in hover mode, hiding behind tree crowns, buildings or natural hills.
Helicopters AH-6 Little Bird are in service with the 160th Special Forces Aviation Regiment of the US Ground Forces (also known as Night Stalkers), and in the elite anti-terrorist special forces of the FBI. The baptism of fire AH-6C received in 1983 during the invasion of the US armed forces in Grenada. Operation "Flash of Fury" involved a dozen small, nimble machines based in Barbados. Several Little Birds supported the Contras in Nicaragua. In 1989, helicopters of the 160th regiment took part in Operation Just Cause in Panama. In 1993, the AH-6 F / G provided fire support to the fighters of the 1st Special Operations Regiment of the US Army Delta Force in the Somali capital Mogadishu. In 2009, several "Little Birds" were involved in Somalia, during the operation to eliminate the terrorist Saleh Ali Nabhani. Little Bird has been involved in special operations in Iraq since the invasion of Iraqi coalition forces in 2003. It is reported that "light laser-guided missiles" were used to provide fire support to ground forces. Perhaps we are talking about modified Hydra 70 missiles.
The most advanced modification used by the US Special Operations Forces, the AH-6M, is based on the MD 530 commercial series helicopters. The AH-6M features numerous innovations: the Allison 250-C30B engine with a capacity of 650 hp, a six-bladed main rotor with increased efficiency that can withstand shooting 14.5mm bullets, composite armor, improved GPS-based navigation system, FLIR infrared vision equipment.
The helicopter is equipped with an improved weapon control system, which made it possible to use the AGM-114 Hellfire ATGM with a laser seeker. In 2009, it was reported that Boeing operated an AH-6S Phoenix combat helicopter as part of the ARH (Armed Aerial Scout) program. Thanks to the use of the Rolls-Royce 250-CE30 engine with 680 hp. the carrying capacity of the helicopter is 1100 kg.
On the basis of the AH-6S, by order of Saudi Arabia, the Boeing Corporation has created a light combat helicopter AH-6I (International). The cost of the first batch of 24 vehicles, intended for the Saudis, is $ 235 million, excluding weapons.
In addition to anti-tank and fire support helicopters, an unmanned version of the AN-6X was developed by Boeing based on the Hughes Model 500. Initially, the main task of a light unmanned helicopter was to be the evacuation of the wounded. But later, taking into account the available number of "Keyuses", "Defenders" and "Little birds" with a resource close to the limit, it was considered rational to convert these machines into unmanned combat helicopters. The program received the designation ULB (Unmanned Little Bird). It is reported that the technical solutions and control equipment tested on the AN-6X can be used on other combat helicopters, including the AN-1 Cobra and AH-64 Apache.