America's Littlest Black Ops Whirlybird Is Armed to the Teeth

Operation Eagle Claw was supposed to free 52 diplomats held during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Its failure not only shamed President Carter's administration and paved the way for Reagan's successful 1980 presidential run, it also instigated the formation of the Army's Special Operations Command, and the development of this petite powerhouse: the MH-6 Little Bird.

The MH-6 is a heavily modified version of the McDonnell Douglas MD369, a light observation helicopter that has served since Vietnam. The MH-6 is outfitted with a 30mm M230 chaingun or a pair of .50 cal GAU-19s (or, sometimes, a pair of M134 miniguns), 14 Hydra 70 rockets, and two AGM-114 Hellfire guided missiles (for anti-tank ops).

Surprisingly, all that firepower does little to hinder the agility and speed of the MH-6. Even with a full complement of pilot, co-pilot, and six fully-equipped special forces troops, the MH-6 maintains a top speed of 175 mph and a combat range of 267 miles. The US Army's elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment employs the MH-6 primarily for troop insertion and fast attack missions, though it can also be utilized in personnel transport, emergency evacuation, aerial observation, and convoy escort roles.

Since entering service in the early 1980s, the US military has flow MH-6s in a wide array of combat scenarios, from Grenada and Nicaragua to Iraq and Afghanistan. It famously even helped extract Delta Force soldiers from the city of Mogadishu during the "Black Hawk Down" incident. [Wiki - Military - Janes]

Top Image: IHS/Patrick Allen