Sept. 7 (UPI) -- MD Helicopters has received $1.39 billion contract for the procurement of an estimated 150 MD 530F light utility helicopters for the government of Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced on Tuesday.
The contract will include maintenance, support services and pilot training. Production sites and funding under the foreign military sales program will be determined by each order as it is requested. The production and delivery run is expected to run with Aug. 31, 2022.
The MD 530F Cayuse Warrior is a light attack helicopter is based off of the OH-6 Cayuse observation helicopter. It can be armed with twin 50mm machineguns and Hydra 70mm rockets.
The MD 530F has already been delivered to the Afghan Air Force in small numbers to help provide close-air support for ground forces, although the helicopter has encountered serious problems while operating in the environment.
One pilot complained that when fully loaded it had a maximum altitude of only 8,000 ft., making it incapable of crossing many of the mountain ranges in Afghanistan. It is unarmored and there have been reports of mechanical unreliability, the .50 machine guns repeatedly jamming in action, and the lack of gunsights requiring the weapons to be aimed by tracers.
The Afghan Air Force has struggled to become capable of operating independently, and is still largely equipped with a mix of Soviet-era helicopters.
Light, simple to operate aircraft like the Cayuse Warrior and Embraer Super Tucano are hoped to fill the gap, but have only been delivered in small numbers so far and have been operated with mixed results.