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Loach Driver

Special Operations Hughes/MD500s - Not 160th SOAR!

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The "Flight Concepts Division" name was still in use, at least publicly, as of 2016, based on environmental impact assessment documentation regarding the planned expansion of their facilities at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Doesn't mean that this is actually the unit's present name, of course, or that its not a cover nomenclature for something else.

 

Easiest way to find the reports is to do a google search for this string: site:www.jble.af.mil "Flight Concepts Division"

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Hi all, Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.  Give me till next week on your FCD question, we've got a couple of guys here that were there recently.  Hopefully I can confirm a name and type aircraft.  Also do some searching for Yellow Fruit?

 

Happy New Year. GT

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4 hours ago, AH6C-SIP said:

Hi all, Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.  Give me till next week on your FCD question, we've got a couple of guys here that were there recently.  Hopefully I can confirm a name and type aircraft.  Also do some searching for Yellow Fruit?

 

Happy New Year. GT

Happy New Year GT! 

 

Thanks for trying to help out.  Don't forget pictures!  Lot's of pictures of all those classified helos!  :)

 

 

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Hi Guys!  Happy New Year!  Our friends at Flight Concepts are now ATO, but I couldn't find out what the acronym stands for.  Also, it would appear they have relinquished their 500/530 for Bell 407s.  That's hard to believe.   Also they have C-27J Spartans.  Guess  you can have some ideas now for new builds.  More as it happens, GT

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GT, thanks for the info. Sad to see that they no longer fly the 530F. The Bell 407 is the only version of the 206 that comes near the OH-6/500 family for performance and manoeuvrability. It's still no Little Bird though! :taunt:

 

LD.  

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Really am curious why they would have phased out the 500/530’s in lieu of Bell 407’s.   Does the Bell product offer performance advantages or is it a matter of just being less noticeable when operating overseas?   

 

That kinda explains that google earth pic I posted of Ft Eustis in another thread. Appeared to be multiple 407’s on the ramp.  

 

Whilst on the subject, a google search also found mention of the Eustis-based Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (ATD), whose missions includes:  "Aviation R&D, Systems Engineering and Special Operations Forces Support".

Edited by 11bee

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Semi-related, http://www.armyaircrews.com/cayuse.html lists the loss of a Flight Concepts Div "OH-6" and it's two Army pilots in Nov of 1990, while performing "NVG weapons testing" at Ft Campbell, KY. 

 

So far, I've yet to find any mention of this crash on the net.  

 

 

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On the subject of "Black" special operations units, sounds like the latest name for the unit formerly known as Seaspray may be Aviation Tactics Evaluation Group (AvTEG).   The new commander of JSOC is a rotary wing AF pilot and his resume mentioned that he commanded the unit’s Expeditionary Special Operations Wing-Bravo.

 

https://sofrep.com/103054/new-jsoc-commander-previously-commanded-a-aviation-unit-more-secretive-than-the-night-stalkers/

 

Here's probably the best primer I've found on JSOC aviation assets, including a rundown on AvTEG:

 

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/8125/shedding-some-light-on-the-pentagons-most-shadowy-aviation-units

 

 

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16 hours ago, Loach Driver said:

It looks like the author of that article might keep an eye on things here on ARC!

 

LD.

LOL.. you think?   Seems like the article is mostly just a compilation of the info provided in this thread.   At least they could have given LD some credit for stumbling upon that old photo of N1111U and posting it!

 

 

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Yea, was hoping a cheque might arrive in the post but I'm sure it is on the way!😉

 

It just goes to show that when we put our heads together here on ARC, we can build up a decent picture of some of these helicopters that operate in the shadows. 👻 Hopefully we will discover a few interesting ships in the years to come.

 

LD.

Edited by Loach Driver

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2 hours ago, Loach Driver said:

Yea, was hoping a cheque might arrive in the post but I'm sure it is on the way!😉

 

It just goes to show that when we put our heads together here on ARC, we can build up a decent picture of some of these helicopters that operate in the shadows. 👻 Hopefully we will discover a few interesting ships in the years to come.

 

LD.

One bit of new info that article had was registrations for two of N1111U’s sister ships.   Will have to do some googling and see what’s out there on those two.   Also, in the google earth pic they posted of the Eustice flight line, they id’d all the 4-rotor helos as Bell 407’s.   Is it me or does one of those helicopters look bigger than the others?

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While trying to track down whoever manufactured those plank / fuel cells on N1111U, I was pointed to a company called CFD International.   I got some great help from their Sales Manager but at this point, it doesn't seem like those planks were their product.  However, CFD apparently have provided a wide range of modification kits to various Littlebird operators over the years and this gent was nice enough to dig through their archives and send me some pretty cool pictures of various weapons and personnel add-ons they have developed.  Hope you find these interesting.

 

ImageImage (7s)Image (6)

 

 

 

 

Edited by 11bee

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First, that is awesome that they sent you those pics.  

Second, that littlebird with the 19 shot pods on it MUST have been nicknamed Popeye or something.  

Really neat pics.

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Great photos, 11! Thanks for posting them up for us and thanks to your contact for sharing them with you.

 

Just a few observations on the photos.

  • The camoflauged machine appears to be N530MG (c/n 106-0010D), a 530F used as a test-ship and owned by Hughes and later MDHC. It flew with a mast-mounted sight in the early 80's.  It was probably loaned to CFD as a test-ship.
  • The Olive Drab 530F also has the reg N530MG but this appears to be a different airframe. It looks to be a converted E-model as the construction number is for an E-to-F conversion (600F). This appears in the videos on youtube featuring CFD.
  • The red, blue and white airframe appears to a non-airworthy fuselage used for mock-up work. 
  • The Little Bird looks like the dedicated 160th test ship. It appears to be an instrumented airframe and so would probably never have returned to the active fleet. It may have flown as an MH-6N and might have been written-off during the MELB height/velocity testing. 

 

LD.

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Dallas University and Dr Joe Leeker, in particular, have a very comprehensive history project centered on Air America. It features documents on various operations undertaken by AA as well as detailed individual PDFs on each different type flown by that "airline". Numerous documents mention the 500P and the "Main Street" wire-tap mission. This document refers to training carried out in support of Taiwan and its personnel who, in turn, flew special missions. Towards the end of this PDF, there is a section dealing with the training of the Taiwanese pilots who were detailed to fly the 500P wire-tap mission in 1972. 

 

https://www.utdallas.edu/library/specialcollections/hac/cataam/Leeker/history/Taiwan3.pdf

 

It mentions that the two OH-6As sought by AA from the Army for training in the USA were probably never delivered and that stateside training was carried out using the two Hughes 500Cs that later went to Udorn in Thailand. Nothing too surprising in that but the one new detail (at least new to me) is that these two 500Cs were, more than likely, based at Groom Lake in 1971 in support of the training of the six Taiwanese pilots. That means N353X and N354X were "Area 51" birds! 

 

Given how everything at Groom Lake was compartmentalised and if you weren't directly involved in a particular project, you were told nothing about it, it's likely these two 500s would have been unmarked. The registration number is carried in black on the tailboom when pictured in Sout East Asia but its likely the regs would have been blanked out while at Groom Lake. It seems that the white "Air America" titles were also only applied for what look like staged publicity shots. Any photos of the 500s in normal use in Thailand show them devoid of the AA titles. It might also make more sense that they flew at Groom Lake in overall Olive Drab rather than in a civilian paint scheme as they could simply be explained away as being "Army helicopters". Again, this is just pure speculation on my part, but it's interesting to speculate about these aircraft being at Groom Lake at that time.

 

65-12968, the original OH-6A "Quiet One", is also rumoured to have been used as a trainer at Groom Lake between April and July 71. The two 500C were registered to AA in July 71 so possibly replaced the Quiet One at Groom Lake in July 71. 

 

LD.

 

Edit: I had a look at my notes on the development of the early Hughes sheilded exhaust that was fitted to N353X and N354X and it looks like development of that system didn't finish until sometime in mid-1972. Therefore it's likely the 500s at Groom Lake didn't have this system fitted when they were flying at Groom Lake and probably weren't fitted with the system until they went to South East Asia.

 

 

Edited by Loach Driver

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On 8/14/2018 at 4:22 PM, Loach Driver said:

It looks like the author of that article might keep an eye on things here on ARC!

 

LD.

You do realize Joe Trevithick IS Thatguy96, LD?  Trust me, he knows a LOT of stuff about a lot of stuff, especially weapon systems.  He is a walking encyclopedia of weapon systems!

    Ray

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Hi Ray. No, I didn't know they were the same person. I knew Thatguy96 was certainly knowledgeable and it shows in his posts here as well as on his own website. It's probably a good thing that the "ARC" Seaspray 500 got wider exposure. It proves that we here on ARC are not just guys (and gals) who build model kits, we all contribute to some serious and in-depth research into obscure areas of aviation history. The information is often out there, you just have to dig deep and we are pretty good at doing that here.

 

LD.

 

 

 

 

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On 12/26/2015 at 7:30 PM, Loach Driver said:

 

El%20Sal%2031_zpsetw7hnnr.jpg

LD.

 

 

I am currently reading Frank Rowe's book on the history of the development of the Helio Courier STOL airplane. One chapter focuses on the Army, USAF and CIA use of the Courier. The use of the Courier by the usual CIA airlines is widely known so there's nothing too surprising in that. One fascinating thing he mentions is that Helio were suspicious of some of the activities of the CIA, in particular in relation to their aquisition of spare parts for the Courier. Helio noticed that the CIA was purchasing large quantities of spares, including an inordinate amount of large structural components that shouldn't have been wearing out, even accounting for the high hours and challenging flying faced by the Couriers in South East Asia and the few flying in South America/Carribean area. This lead Helio to suspect that the CIA was constructing additional Couriers from all these spare parts for completely clandestine operations. With airframes that carry no data plate, the aircraft truly doesn't "exist" and so a greater degree of deniability is attached to any of these alleged "Ghost Ships". They can then be used for infiltration missions into China, North Viet Nam and elsewhere and if discovered, they cannot be traced back to the CIA or Helio because, legally, the airplane doesn't exist because the manufacturer never built the airplane! It is alleged that as many as 20 airframes were constructed in this manner and employed on CIA clandestine operations. 

 

It begs the question: Did the CIA purchase and accumulate sufficient spare parts of other aircraft types to facilitate the construction of further "Ghost Ships", be they helicopters or airplanes or did aircraft manufacturers complete airframes for the CIA and roll those airframes out of the factory with no data plate attached and no notification sent to the FAA with regard to the contruction of these airframes? 

 

The helicopter in the photo above doesn't appear to have gone to the El Salvador air force after US Army/CIA use, given that it appears to be heavily-modified. Perhaps the Army/CIA/front-company purchased a legitimate airframe on the civil market, returned the data plate to the FAA, had the aircraft struck-off the register as destroyed and yet continued to fly the helicopter on clandestine missions. N1111U has an FAA history, to a certain degree, because it is hiding in plain sight, so to speak, but "31" and some of its sister-ships have never been properly identified or accounted for by way of S/N. Wayne Mutza also raises the question of true production numbers for the OH-6/H500 in his book as he too has some doubts about potential "off-the-books" production. Perhaps that might explain the existence of "31".

 

LD. 

Edited by Loach Driver

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LD, I believe these are same same 81-23631

 

From Graham back in the day

23631

LoveBoatAug810014.jpg

 

CFD International and likely as you stated a dedicated 160th test ship. It was at one time MH-6J 81-23631 ACC: 06/81 A CO. 160 SOA GP

 

23631+RANGE.jpg

 

23631.jpg

 

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This is likely what is on the bird that started this discussion.  I saw a similar set on a non descript tan OH-8 (500D) at Ft Eustis several months before the Desert One fiasco.

 

There are provisions for two seat cushions on each tank.  They were likely early prototypes. 

 

RobbieHalfMoon001SM.thumb.jpg.e54c49f8cdb85f3d4ff7fa31dd582c8b.jpg

Edited by BWDenver

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