American defense firm MD Helicopters has taken the unusual step of calling out the Afghan government over its complaints about the MD530F helicopter. This is intended to counter complaints from senior Afghan Army officers that the MD530F, which is somewhat similar to the AH-6 and MH-6 “Little Bird” helicopters used by the United States Army lacked range and failed to handle the “hot and high” environment in Afghanistan. Early versions of the MD500 series, as the OH-6 Cayuse, were first used in Vietnam and highly praised. The MD500 series has been in service (military and commercial) world-wide ever since.
Afghanistan is not easy terrain for helicopters. Both the high altitude and the hotter climate can degrade the performance of some helicopters, notably the amount of payload they can carry. The MD530F was equipped with a more powerful engine to help overcome the high altitude and hotter temperatures. The Afghan National Army’s problems may be more likely to stem from a lack of maintenance due to limited resources and a more lackadaisical attitude towards those tasks that help keep aircraft fully mission-capable. Naturally Afghan commanders do not want to admit that, so they will instead blame the manufacturers for selling them junk. There’s also a major problem with corruption which has already been identified as a major cause of problems maintaining any equipment that needs a steady supply of expensive spare parts. The money is often diverted (stolen) or the parts end up on the black market. Afghans don’t like to talk about that but they all complain about it.
The MD530F is one of MD Helicopters’s “Defender” series, which is capable of carrying two 7.62mm Gatling Guns, four BGM-71 TOW Anti-tank missiles, or unguided rockets. The helicopter has a top speed of 282 kilometers per hour, and a range of 430 kilometers. Over 4700 Hughes/MD 500 helicopters have been built. – Harold C. Hutchison