Jump to content
ARC Discussion Forums
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
Loach Driver

Special Operations Hughes/MD500s - Not 160th SOAR!

Recommended Posts

As many of the regulars here know, I love anything to do with the Hughes 500 and OH-6 series of helicopters. It is a strange affliction that sees me cruising the net looking for interesting photos of these helicopters almost everyday. I usually find something interesting, a nice 500 in a sharp colour scheme or maybe a slightly rare photo of some prototype OH-6 or other. Yesterday, I found a photo on an aviation photo gallery that might just be my greatest find. Ever!

(That's some intro, huh?.)

So, without further ado, I would like to present to you a link to the photo in question. Click on it, open it and enjoy this beauty. When you are done looking, pick your jaw up off the ground and please carefully read the next few sentence directly below the link.

http://www.planepictures.net/netshow.php?id=961314

I don't know what you think this helicopter is, but I reckon this might possibly be a (U.S. Army) SEASPRAY Hughes 500! I told you it was good. OK, the next bit is very important. I reckon this photo is going to generate a lot of interest, both on this forum and soon on other forums. Our natural interest in all things "special" is probably going to have people doing a google search on the registration N1111U. That search will show up the other registration numbers assigned to this airframe, including the current registration number. Do a search with that reg number and you will find the name of a company who are currently the registered owners of this airframe. I did all these searches and found the newer reg numbers and the name of that company. I jumped to the conclusion that this company MUST be yet another cover company. There is another possibility, though. This helicopter might now be no longer in use in Special Ops. It might be doing normal, everyday, commercial work with a legitimate commercial helicopter company or it might even be privately-owned, stripped of all the special equipment we see in the photo and flying in the hands of a private pilot. For these reasons, I would ask everyone who adds a comment on this thread to not mention the CURRENT REGISTRATION NUMBER of this helicopter or mention the NAME OF THE COMPANY listed as OWNER of this helicopter in this thread. I think it is probably OK to speculate on the equipment fit of the helicopter in the photo and what its mission was but I believe it is unfair to associate this helicopter and its current owner to any form of special operations when we don't know the full story. Maybe I am being paranoid, but I think this is an important point. Thanks for taking the time to read all of this post. I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I do.

LD.

Edited by Loach Driver

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As many of the regulars here know, I love anything to do with the Hughes 500 and OH-6 series of helicopters. It is a strange affliction that sees me cruising the net looking for interesting photos of these helicopters almost everyday. I usually find something interesting, a nice 500 in a sharp colour scheme or maybe a slightly rare photo of some prototype OH-6 or other. Yesterday, I found a photo on an aviation photo gallery that might just be my greatest find. Ever!

(That's some intro, huh?.)

So, without further ado, I would like to present to you a link to the photo in question. Click on it, open it and enjoy this beauty. When you are done looking, pick your jaw up off the ground and please carefully read the next few sentence directly below the link.

http://www.planepictures.net/netshow.php?id=961314

I don't know what you think this helicopter is, but I reckon this might be possibly be a SEASPRAY Hughes 500! I told you it was good. OK, the next bit is very important. I reckon this photo is going to generate a lot of interest, both on this forum and soon on other forums. Our natural interest in all things "special" is probably going to have people doing a google search on the registration N1111U. That search will show up the other registration numbers assigned to this airframe, including the current registration number. Do a search with that reg number and you will find the name of a company who are currently the registered owners of this airframe. I did all these searches and found the newer reg numbers and the name of that company. I jumped to the conclusion that this company MUST be yet another CIA cover company. There is another possibility, though. This helicopter might now be no longer in use in Special Ops. It might be doing normal, everyday, commercial work with a legitimate commercial helicopter company or it might even be privately-owned, stripped of all the special equipment we see in the photo and flying in the hands of a private pilot. For these reasons, I would ask everyone who adds a comment on this thread to not mention the CURRENT REGISTRATION NUMBER of this helicopter or mention the NAME OF THE COMPANY listed as OWNER of this helicopter in this thread. I think it is probably OK to speculate on the equipment fit of the helicopter in the photo and what its mission was but I believe it is unfair to associate this helicopter and its current owner to any form of special operations when we don't know the full story. Maybe I am being paranoid, but I think this is an important point. Thanks for taking the time to read all of this post. I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I do.

LD.

Wow, next to finding a picture of a unicorn or the always elusive EH-6, this is one of the more impressive finds out there. Any background info on this helo from the forum where the picture was posted (or any other pics out there)? The date on the photo was June 18, 1987, that was only a few days after Reagan visited Germany and gave his famous "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech. Maybe this helo was part of a presidential security team?

Just at first glance, I noticed the unusual box-shaped housing on the tailboom, fairings on the nose and rear of the doghouse that look similar (but a tad bigger) than the RWR sensors on a standard Littlebird, what appear to be aux fuel tanks on the side with planks mounted on top, the FLIR unit (not sure when the FLIR found it's way to the rest of the spec-ops fleet, 1987 seems early) and lastly, what seems to be a complete lack of other external antennas. The AH-6 from this time period had more than a few, it surprising this helo is missing all of them.

What a great find, I'd love to hear what some of the folks in the know have to say about it. Thanks for posting!

Edited by 11bee

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After seeing the mods,i think thats a MH-6 Little Bird. Great photo.

Rod.

Edited by salvador001

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This specific airframe does have antennas on it - look under the nose behind the FLIR - there are at least 2 and maybe 3 large white blade antennas, probably HF.

As far as the FLIR, they were in use by 1987. The mounting is the vertical can type, where the Pitot tube comes through a slot in the top front of the mount. The later mounts had the angled front, and the Pitot tube didn't penetrate the mounting. The FLIR appears to be an AAQ-16. With the FLIR you would expect there to be an MFD hung somewhere around the panel but I don't see one.

Also of interest is the slime light and the FRIES fast-rope mounts. The panel is a T-panel. Front seat appears to be mesh.

This is an interesting a/c - I saw two similar ones in almost the exact same paint scheme flying in formation around 1988, and was told they were Seaspray birds.

This doesn't have to be a spook agency or covert mil special ops bird. It could have some sort of law enforcement function (counter-narcotics?) or could have belonged to DOE's NEST Flynet group for example.

- John Hairell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LD,

I got your message about this helo, but I've been busy so haven't done any checking. Very cool setup whatever it turns out to be. I did manage to dig up this:

N1111U Hughes 369D > 369FF 11-0864D > N4986B,N1111U,N9159A,N26RV

Looks like she started life as a MD369D and ended up as a MD369FF if I understand the data line correctly. Anyway, I've looked for more pics using the other registrations listed but no joy so far. Perhaps you'll have better luck.

Ray

Edited by rotorwash

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad to see this is of interest. The helicopter is basically an MH-6E but it does have a few additional features that make it different from 160th SOAR Little Birds.

The three aerials under the forward fuselage are interesting. I guess these helicopters would have been operating in some very remote parts of the world so they would have needed some serious radios for good comms.

Again, in those remote area of operations, there would have been less support available, than say to a 160th SOAR operation, so these helicopters needed the long range fuel tanks. I have never seen a 160th MH-6E with these tanks. I think Robertsons are the manufacturer, as someone mentioned earlier.

The large antenna on the tailboom could be one of a number of things. I could be wrong, but I reckon the antenna is an early GPS receiver. The GPS network was just up-and-running in 1987 and I'd guess that these guys (whoever they are) would have been the very first guys to have started using it.

As well as all the other stuff, the airframe seems to have the mounting brackets for the fast-rope frame. The fuselage skin over the engine compartment also has the old Blackhole IR suppression system faired over, so it probably flew with that modification when it was a D-model.

It looks like the pilot has put his map over the instrumnet panel, so maybe he was trying to cover up something on the instrument panel. The tinted rear windows are interesting too. I guess the radios and other gizmos, possibly the GPS unit, were in there and needed to be kept under wraps.

Why is it in Germany? I think 11Bee has hit the nail on the head. The Presidential visit. Frankfurt was the main transport hub for the USAF at that time but why does the helicopter have it rotors spread if it's only passing through? This helicopter is ready to fly so it is probably in use there in Germany. The skids are clean so it probably isn't on its way back from some interesting location.

LD.

Edited by Loach Driver

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm leaning towards still in use by somebody special. Look at the info for that last reg, then map the address. :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm leaning towards still in use by somebody special. Look at the info for that last reg, then map the address. :-)

Yea, the available info does point towards that, but it could also be a decommissioned ship now in normal, everyday,non-special ops use. It is hard to tell for sure and it is probably best not to speculate too much about it. You never know who is watching!!! :unsure:

LD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great find, Loach!

My first thought upon seeing the pic was a PMC bird, but they were not as prevalent in 88 as they are now.

Configuration looks very similar to an MH-6H. The exhaust and cowling config tells me there's a C30 in there (and the 369FF designation seems to confirm that). BTW, the AH-6G/MH-6H config was initially known to us as 369FF's when we first tested it.

That "cake cover" antenna on the tailboom is an old steerable SATCOM antenna (maybe INMARSAT). Have seen those before on special ops airframes. Those big undernose blades appear to be UHF/VHF/FM combos.

I think your theory of "Seaspray" (or something like it) is probably not too far off the mark. It certainly looks a lot like what I used to see across the ramp at Ft. Eustis in the '90's, although most of those were point-nosed birds by that time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I remember from the Reagan visit in 1987 (I was 11), he toured quite a bit through the country and Mainz being central enough for that bird to act as a waypoint between security surveillance flights. The civilian reg and paint scheme wouldn't draw too much attention. Could the secret service have been a user of that bird back then?

Btw,I too had no luck with the search using the later aircraft regs.

Cheers

Thorsten

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

See below.

Am still getting used to this editor.

Edited by Noumcea

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey all,

I am new here and was fascinated when I stumbled upon this thread.

What you see in the picture is an early EH version with recon abilities.

I have used some deductive reasoning and some of my personal knowledge to come to this conclusion.

First of all, everything is not as it seems to be.

There is no FRIES system on the bird - You can't fast rope from skid level and the Little Bird cannot be used for fast roping. To do so, the main beam of the FRIES where the rope connects has to be mounted at the top centre of the rear doors and protrude at least 5 feet to clear the skids and bench to allow for a safe egress. This means that the rear doors have to removed if FRIES was installed.

Which brings my to my second point. Why are the windows on the rear doors blacked out / heavily tined ? Is probable that nobody is allowed to see the EW and Recon stations in the rear of of the craft ?

More food for thought to back-up my conclusion;

1. What are the bars attched to the outboard edge of the bench ?

2. Why are there at least 2 long antenna on the tail boom (one on the left side and one on the top) ? This is not a standard configuration even for any known variants of the craft.

3. Are the tanks under benches actuaaly for fuel ? Have a look at EW pods on other aircraft. Nothing is as it seems.

4. What is the little sensor / transmitter located on the top of the the horizontal tail stabiliser ?

Many questions I know but doesn't it lead to the conclusion of an early EH bird ?

Cheers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey all,

I am new here and was fascinated when I stumbled upon this thread.

What you see in the picture is an early EH version with recon abilities.

I have used some deductive reasoning and some of my personal knowledge to come to this conclusion.

First of all, everything is not as it seems to be.

There is no FRIES system on the bird - You can't fast rope from skid level and the Little Bird cannot be used for fast roping. To do so, the main beam of the FRIES where the rope connects has to be mounted at the top centre of the rear doors and protrude at least 5 feet to clear the skids and bench to allow for a safe egress. This means that the rear doors have to removed if FRIES was installed.

Which brings my to my second point. Why are the windows on the rear doors blacked out / heavily tined ? Is probable that nobody is allowed to see the EW and Recon stations in the rear of of the craft ?

More food for thought to back-up my conclusion;

1. What are the bars attched to the outboard edge of the bench ?

2. Why are there at least 2 long antenna on the tail boom (one on the left side and one on the top) ? This is not a standard configuration even for any known variants of the craft.

3. Are the tanks under benches actuaaly for fuel ? Have a look at EW pods on other aircraft. Nothing is as it seems.

4. What is the little sensor / transmitter located on the top of the the horizontal tail stabiliser ?

Many questions I know but doesn't it lead to the conclusion of an early EH bird ?

Cheers.

Interesting idea. I'm not sure I agree though. If this was a recon / EW variant (the mythical EH-6), I'm not sure why it would have planks on the outside. Being loaded with specialized avionics and with additional operators in back, I doubt it would have much / any left over payload capability, so why would you need planks? Those exterior pods could be EW gear but given my thoughts above and the fact that I've seen pictures of other MH-6's with combo planks / fuel cells, I'm still inclined to think that they are for fuel, not electronics.

Also, everything I have read on the EH-6 was that it was a modified OH-6A that was only in service for a few years (I thought early 80's).

Regardless, you raise some interesting points. I had assumed that those bars you mentioned were simply fuel lines for the external tanks but in retrospect, it doesn't make sense to install them on the outside, where they would be more vulnerable to damage from the guys on the planks. I have no idea what they are for. Plus, after looking at the picture blown up, it appears that there are fuel lines entering the fuselage right behind the lower corner of the aft door. Maybe those items are some sort of grip for the plank riders?

I don't see the long antennas on the tailboom that you mentioned.

I think that little sensor on the top of the horizontal tail is just a position light, maybe an IR one.

I don't see any sign of FRIES gear either but maybe I just don't know what I am looking at.

The blacked-out rear windows are interesting. Maybe to hide some specialized avionics boxes from outside view? Also, I remember reading that Seaspray helos were used to fly a high level Lebanese leader out of Beirut during the civil war in the mid-80's. Possibly the blacked-out windows are just to conceal the presence of a very sensitive VIP in the back? It definitely adds to the "cool factor" of this helo.

I would love to see other pictures.....

Edited by 11bee

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on how curious you are you can order a copy of the FAA records to discover that chopper's 'official' history.

http://aircraft.faa.gov/e.gov/nd/

Even if the aircraft is in use with a government agency, if it has a civilian registration it has to conform to all airworthiness laws. That means that all modifications have to be approved and the FAA records updated to include these changes.

I've ordered several dozen aircraft records (paper versions) and they've only cost me around $10 - $12.

That is a nice colour scheme by the way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only comm type antennas I see, are the bottom blades, which look to be two VHF and one UHF. Other than that, I don't see anything else. Except there's that little strip thing on top of the back exhaust area, which looks like it might be something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only comm type antennas I see, are the bottom blades, which look to be two VHF and one UHF. Other than that, I don't see anything else. Except there's that little strip thing on top of the back exhaust area, which looks like it might be something.

That yellowish strip is a luminescent low-viz formation light. They are identical to what was installed on early model AH/MH-6's.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I'd like to know is how these guys looked... I'd like to do a 1/6 crew fig.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I'd like to know is how these guys looked... I'd like to do a 1/6 crew fig.

I've been told another photo exists in the public domain of a similar 530F with people planks. The photo shows a couple of operators on the planks and they are in civilian attire with jeans. So I'd say civilian clothing would do just fine.

LD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been told another photo exists in the public domain of a similar 530F with people planks. The photo shows a couple of operators on the planks and they are in civilian attire with jeans. So I'd say civilian clothing would do just fine.

LD.

I'd love to know where that other picture resides. Also, if you check out the pinned AH-6C thread you'll see a couple of very unique pics of early MH-6's. The guys in back are also wearing standard civie clothing - jeans, etc.

No doubt the choice of attire varied greatly depending on the mission.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a related note, if one was to take a shot a modeling this particular helo, would the standard Dragon AH-6J suffice (obviously with a good amount of mods)?

Also, is there any chance that a SEASPRAY (I think we can agree that this bird is the real thing) helo like this would have been armed, ala AH-6? I thought I read something ages ago about some of these helos engaging in combat operations.

Or would the options consist of either planks or just a standard civilian look with no major external fittings?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess jeans wouldn't make a very impressive fig.

The book Killer Elite mentions Sea Spray quite a bit. The whole book is posted on google and you can search for the name sea spray. The connection with the 160th is explained. It apparently was started with the intent of providing air support for the Intel Support Activity operations, and like the 160th, the SS unit came about as a reaction to the Iran situation. They do mention that some of the 500s supposedly had guns.

Anybody pickup on the current reg address yet?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>Hey all,

>I am new here and was fascinated when I stumbled upon this thread.

>What you see in the picture is an early EH version with recon abilities.

I> have used some deductive reasoning and some of my personal knowledge to come to this conclusion.

>First of all, everything is not as it seems to be.

>There is no FRIES system on the bird - You can't fast rope from skid level and the Little Bird cannot be used for fast roping. To do so, the main >beam of the FRIES where the rope connects has to be mounted at the top centre of the rear doors and protrude at least 5 feet to clear the skids and >bench to allow for a safe egress. This means that the rear doors have to removed if FRIES was installed.

I can't get the quote thing to work so I'm using caret marks for your original comments.

The mounts for the FRIES system are on the aircraft. All they have to do is take off the rear doors, mount the fast rope system, and they are ready to go.

>Which brings my to my second point. Why are the windows on the rear doors blacked out / heavily tined ? Is probable that nobody is allowed to see >the EW and Recon stations in the rear of of the craft ?

Probably not. This is all based on your assumption that this is an EW bird. Think of a 5XX platform with any EW or "recon" gear in the back with multiple operators. That's a lot of stuff to pack into a very small space. Also, remember, there's a plank traversing the rear compartment. I don't buy it. I bet there's a big box fuel tank in there. And there are any number of reasons why the rear glass may be tinted. The antennas fitted point to the a/c being fitted for long-range navigation outside of the U.S. and SATCOM. With two outside conformal "plank/tanks", a large internal tank, plus its own inherent tanks, this a/c would have a substantial range.

>More food for thought to back-up my conclusion;

>1. What are the bars attched to the outboard edge of the bench ?

I believe they are part of the latching system for this particular plank. I bet they latch the seat to the fuselage when the seat is stored vertically.

>2. Why are there at least 2 long antenna on the tail boom (one on the left side and one on the top) ? This is not a standard configuration even for >any known variants of the craft.

I don't see any antennas on the tailboom other than the "cakepan" antenna on top. The light-colored strip on top of the engine cover above the rear latch is a slime light. The flat panel with the egg-shaped blank is where an IR-suppressing side exhaust can be fitted.

>3. Are the tanks under benches actuaaly for fuel ? Have a look at EW pods on other aircraft. Nothing is as it seems.

This is a fuel tank. The connectors at the rear are for fuel and electricity. If it were an ELINT/SIGINT system it probably would have antennas sticking out of it somewhere. There appears to be a leather jacket thrown on the front of the external seat, with the sleeve hanging over the edge.

>4. What is the little sensor / transmitter located on the top of the the horizontal tail stabiliser ?

Not a sensor or transmitter at all - it's an IR button light.

>Many questions I know but doesn't it lead to the conclusion of an early EH bird ?

Nope. I'm about 100% certain this is a Ft. Eustis Seaspray (or whatever they are called now) bird.

John Hairell (tpn18@yahoo.com)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...