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Special Operations Hughes/MD500s - Not 160th SOAR!


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Interesting. Who would the helicopter be contracted from and by whom? Is there a company that has a history for supplying helicopters to special operations units for training? I’ll check my Blackwater photo file to see if the ship or similar is there.

 

LD.

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  • 3 months later...

Not Littlebird related but I figured I'd add this to the this thread since it's all about non-Army special ops aircraft.   Spotted yesterday in LA - a flight of three Bell 407's, "Mike 01" flight.   They appear to have been tracked back to Ft Eustis, VA, home of "Flight Concepts" (or whatever it goes by these days) and other "shy" military aviation organizations.

 

A mysterious Bell 407 helicopter seen flying in the greater Los Angeles Area on Jan. 13, 2021.

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I'd say these are the Little Bird/530F replacements and have probably been in service now for quite some time with Flight Concepts. Maybe when the 160th changed over to the A/MH-6M Mission Enhanced Little Bird, there was no longer fleet commonality between the 160th and FCD, and this forced the decision to get their own upgrade. In fairness, the 407 is basically a big-cabin 530F! It has lots of power and good range. It is also pretty maneuverable so works in the "Little Bird" role, I guess.  The 407 blends in fairly well on most airfields too.  

 

I think the FBI HRT unit changed over to similar airframes some time ago too. 

 

LD.

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  • 11 months later...

Published in U.S. News & World Report, March 21, 1988 (it's in an adaptation from the then-forthcoming book by Steven Emerson, Secret Warriors) :

 

n4eNWm5.png

 

"Quick Response: The custom Star Wars choppers used by Seaspray carrying commando units on an exercise"

 

Looks seriously legit.

 

I have only a scan of the magazine, maybe some hardcore researcher can get a paper copy and do a better job.

 

(BTW in case you're wondering, no, there is no other interesting photo in the mag article, and no pics at all in the book)

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for posting this photo.

 

Yes, this does look like a Seaspray 500D. IR light on the centre pillar of the canopy, below the air vent. Has people planks and the external fuel tanks fitted underneath. Also fitted with the Blackhole IR exhaust system, wire cutters, looks like a landing light in a fairing under the forward right belly/nose area. It also looks like there is a radio or radar altimeter system fitted to the belly centre-line. The tailboom has the twin radio antennae underneath, a fairing for the RWRs that also serves as a mount for a pair of blade antennae (of a type I have not seen fitted before) and the Omega box fairing. There is also a standard small blade aerial on top, along with another flat mount or fairing (possibly). Finally, one of the most interesting additions is the four-blade tail rotor. The tail strobe light mount might have an IR strobe light fitted underneath the mount with a regular strobe light on top. 

 

Edit 1: On a second viewing, it looks like the two antennae under the RWR fairing look like a pair of "hockey stick" antennae.   

 

Edit 2: It also looks like the metallic antennae used on the OH-6A, attached to the inside of the canopy bubble near the canopy framing, are also fitted.

 

LD.

Edited by Loach Driver
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Wow, that’s a great find.   Can’t believe there was another picture of one of these helos sitting out in the public domain for all those years.   Wonder how USN&WR was able to get their hands on that pic?    
 

It’s pretty interesting to see all the differences between this helo and N1111U.    

Edited by 11bee
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17 hours ago, 11bee said:

Can’t believe there was another picture of one of these helos sitting out in the public domain for all those years.   Wonder how USN&WR was able to get their hands on that pic?

 

Yes, it's incredible in some way.

 

My starting point was some forum post I saw around a decade ago saying that there was a Seaspray chopper photo in some 1980s US News issue... I did some internet searches, somehow I got the idea that it might be related to Emerson, I found that this issue was an introduction to his book, so I kept that reference in my "loose ends" file, but it has been only a few days ago that I managed to find a scan.

 

Makes me wonder if there are other gold nuggets lying around...

 

The picture is not credited, I guess Emerson got it from one of his sources.

Edited by Rob1
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  • 2 weeks later...

That's another great photo. And yes, I'd have to agree that this probably is being flown by the same unit that flew the 530Fs in Mogadishu. My guess is Flight Concepts Division.

 

LD.

Edited by Loach Driver
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On the pic above, from way back in this thread, I thought it was decided that this was probably a civilian contractor-operated helo that was used for stateside training of various law enforcement and military units?

 

There's another pic that was posted on Page 3 of what appears to be the same helo, perched on top of a 747.

 

 

 

 

Edited by 11bee
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That was the conclusion I came to at the time but on viewing this photo and the Somalia FARP photo, and comparing both to the "Little Bird on a Boeing" photo, the one thing they all have in common are twin blade antennae under the forward belly and the Satcom Batwing antenna on the tailboom. I am now inclined to believe that all are FCD 530Fs and that the 530F that appeared on the Spiral Wing website is also an FCD 530F and Spiral Wing were possibly contracted to provide flight instruction specific to Special Ops in the Little Bird. Again, this is only my guess as to what is going on in these photos. Hopefully more information and photos will be discovered. 

 

LD.  

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