McDonnell Douglas MD 500 Defender


MD 500 Defender
Afghan Air Force MD-530F helicopter fires machine guns.jpg
An Afghan Air Force MD 530F Cayuse Warrior firing a .50 BMG (12.7 mm) heavy machine gun from its gun pod
Role Light multi-role military helicopter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Hughes Helicopters
McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems
MD Helicopters
First flight 1976
Status In service
Primary users Republic of Korea Army
Iraqi Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Philippine Air Force
Produced 1976–present
Number built 471
Developed from Hughes OH-6 Cayuse
MD Helicopters MD 500

The McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems MD 500 Defender is a light multi-role military helicopter based on the MD 500 light utility helicopter and OH-6 Cayuse Light Observation Helicopter.

Design and development

The original OH-6 Cayuse helicopter proved its worth during the Vietnam War in the light helicopter role. The designers at Hughes realized there was a market for a light multi-mission helicopter with an improved equipment fit than the OH-6 and Model 500M. The resulting design was the Model 500MD Defender which first flew in 1976. It was tailored for specific roles including unarmed observation and an armed scout helicopter equipped with TOW anti-tank missiles. An anti-submarine version was developed with a search radar, magnetic anomaly detector and the capability to carry lightweight aerial torpedoes.

The helicopter was popular with customers like Kenya who could buy a capable anti-armor helicopter for less than half the cost of a gunship such as the AH-1 Cobra or the AH-64 Apache. Israel used the Defender extensively during the conflicts of the late 1970s and 1980s against Syrian armored forces.

The Defender was later built as an improved version as the MD530MG, with increased engine power, handling, avionics, and a redesigned forward fuselage. Later developments included a mast mounted sight (MMS).

Korean Air Unmanned System-Vertical Helicopter (KUS-VH)

In December 2012, Boeing demonstrated their Unmanned Little Bird to the South Korean Army. The pilotless aircraft flew autonomously in a 25-minute demonstration for the purpose of showing unmanned capabilities technologies, such as enhanced ISR and resupply, in the system that could be integrated into Army MD 500 helicopters.[1] In October 2015, Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) unveiled a mock-up of their unmanned MD 500, designated the Korean Air Unmanned System-Vertical Helicopter (KUS-VH), featuring blacked out windows, a large fuel tank where the rear seats would be that extends endurance to four hours, and an armament of two Hellfire missiles and a 2.75 in (70 mm) rocket pod; unlike Boeing's optionally manned and unarmed ULB, the KUS-VH is completely unmanned and armed as well as having an EO/IR sensor. The KUS-VH is envisioned to perform missions including ISR, attack, aerial delivery, coast guard, amphibious landing support, and emergency reinforcement to back up manned helicopter units. A KUS-VH unit would consist of two to four aircraft and sensor packages, a ground control system and ground support system, and it could operate alone or in conjunction with manned attack helicopters. A request for proposals for an unmanned scout helicopter is expected in 2016-2017, for which the company says making the up to 175 MD 500s unmanned would be a cheap way of reusing them after retirement[2][3] from service over the next 10 years for safely performing dangerous attack missions.[4]

MD Helicopters had submitted a version called the MD 540F in the U.S. Army's Armed Aerial Scout program. This caused Boeing to try to block MD Helicopters from participating, citing agreements the companies struck in 2005 to offer the Mission Enhanced Little Bird in the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program. As part of the venture, MD Helicopters sold intellectual property related to the aircraft's design. The two companies lost the bid and the program was ultimately cancelled. When MD Helicopters disclosed plans to offer the MD 540F in the AAS program in April 2012, Boeing claimed that they could not sell any "similarly configured" aircraft to any U.S. or foreign military organization. Boeing offered their AH-6 in the competition. MD Helicopters said Boeing did not object to previous sales to armed forces and governments in Japan, Jordan, and Italy, as well as to U.S. special operations, and local U.S. police forces. Restrictions on selling aircraft similar to the Little Bird, domestically or to foreign users, would have put the company out of business. In July 2013, a federal court ruled that MD Helicopters could not be blocked from offering their aircraft.[5] The Army ended the AAS program in late 2013.[6]


500D Scout Defender
Armed reconnaissance version
500M Defender
Military export version of the 500 and 500C, built under license by Kawasaki in Japan (as the OH-6J)[7] and Breda Nardi in Italy.
500M/ASW Defender
Export version for the Spanish Navy.
NH-500E built under license by Breda Nardi (Agusta) since 1990[8][9]
NH-500M Defender
Italian-built version of the 500M Defender. Licensed by Breda Nardi before merge with Agusta.[10]
500MD Defender
Military version of the 500D. Korean Air's aerospace division from 1976 to 1984 with 200 choppers made.[11] 50 were armed with TOW anti-tank missiles and 150 choppers used for transportation and support duties.[11]
ROCN Hughes 500MD/ASW Defender 6910 Carried on Lan Yang (FFG-935)
500MD/ASW Defender
Maritime version of the 500MD Defender. Equipped with a Bendix RDR-1300 search radar in a nose cone offset to the port side, and a towed ASQ-81C(V)2 magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) at the starboard fuselage. Up to two Mk44 or Mk46 are carried underneath the fuselage, which can be replaced by smoke markers.[12]
500MD/TOW Defender
Anti-tank version of the 500MD Defender, armed with TOW anti-tank missiles.
500MD/MMS-TOW Defender
Anti-tank version, fitted with a mast-mounted sight, armed with TOW anti-tank missiles.
500MD Quiet Advanced Scout Defender
Fitted with noise suppression equipment.
500MD Defender II
Improved version.
500MG Defender
Military version of the 500E.
A Philippine Air Force MD-520MG Light Attack Helicopter
520MG Defender
Philippine military version. Special Forces version. Modified 500MG Defender that carries .50 (12.7 mm) caliber machine guns and 7-tube rocket pods and operates as a light attack aircraft.[13]
520MK Black Tiger
South Korean-built military version, built by Korean Air Aerospace Division[14]
MD 530F Cayuse Warrior
It is a military light scout attack helicopter developed from OH-6 Cayuse.[15][16] It incorporating simple fixed-forward sighting system, FN Herstal weapons management system, Rohde & Schwarz M3AR tactical mission radio and Dillon Aero mission configurable armament system (MCAS) weapons plank.[17][16]
Performance: Service ceiling 16,000 feet (4,900 m), range 235 nautical miles (435 km), cruising speed 135 nautical miles (250 km) per hour.[15]
Weapons: Two hardpoints for FN HMP400 gun pod with FN M3P .50 BMG (12.7 mm) heavy machine gun (1100 rpm firing rate, carries 400 rounds ammo, effective firing range nearly 1,850 m, maximum firing range 6500 m) and/or M260 rocket pod with 7 unguided Hydra 70 rockets (effective firing range 8 km).[16][18][19]
Afghanistan Air Force is the largest operator of MD 530F Cayuse Warrior.[20] According to Colonel Qalandari, Afghan Air Force pilot, “It’s unsafe to fly, the engine is too weak, the tail rotor is defective and it’s not armored. If we go down after the enemy we’re going to have enemy return fire, which we can’t survive. If we go up higher, we can’t visually target the enemy".[21]
MD 530M
Military version.
MD 530MG Defender
Military version.
Improved military version
MD530 Nightfox
Night attack version.
MD530MG Paramilitary Defender
Police or border patrol version.
Upgraded MD530F, incorporating a 6-bladed, fully articulated rotor blade system made of composite material, a more rugged landing skid for heavier take-off and landing weights, a fully integrated digital glass cockpit with multi-function color displays and a pilot Helmet Display and Tracking System (HDTS), which couples together a targeting FLIR and laser designator.[22]
Designed based on the MD530F airframe and is engineered with advanced technology to deliver enhanced combat capabilities.[23]


For civilian operators, see MD 500 series.

Military operators

An Italian Air Force NH-500E
 El Salvador
See Hughes OH-6
A MD500E of the Finnish Army
 South Korea
 Taiwan (Republic of China)
 United States

Former operators


Specifications (500M)

MD 500 orthographical image.svg

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1981-82[36]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 30 ft 9.5 in (9.385 m) rotors running
  • Height: 8 ft 8.5 in (2.654 m) to top of rotor hub
8 ft 10.75 in (2.71 m) to top of tail fin
  • Empty weight: 1,512 lb (686 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,550 lb (1,157 kg) normal MTOW
3,000 lb (1,361 kg) overload MTOW


  • Maximum speed: 132 kn (152 mph, 244 km/h) at 1,000 ft (305 m)
  • Cruise speed: 117 kn (135 mph, 217 km/h) at sea level
  • Range: 318 nmi (366 mi, 589 km) at 4,000 ft (1,219 m)
  • Service ceiling: 4,390 ft (1,340 m)
  • Hover ceiling IGE: 8,200 ft (2,499 m)
  • Hover ceiling OGE: 5,300 ft (1,615 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,700 ft/min (8.6 m/s)


  • four TOW anti-tank missiles, or
  • two 7.62mm General Electric M134 Miniguns plus ammunition, or
  • four General Dynamics Stinger air-to-air missile, or
  • Mk 44 or Mk 46 lightweight torpedoes (ASW Version), or
  • two seven-shot rocket pods

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


  1. ^ Little Bird demo for the Republic of Korea -, December 14, 2012
  2. ^ PICTURES: KAL-ASD to test unmanned MD500 -, 20 October 2015
  3. ^ New Unmanned Version of MD 500 Displayed in Korea -, 30 October 2015
  4. ^ Boeing, Korean Air join up for unmanned MD500 gunship -, 22 September 2016
  5. ^ Lynn Tilton Bests Boeing in Helicopter Arbitration -, 25 July 2013
  6. ^ Outgoing General: US Army Must Continue To Fund Research and Development -, 14 January 2014
  7. ^ Frawley, Gerard: The International Directory of Military Aircraft, page 97. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2
  8. ^ "Official website Aeronautica Militare".
  9. ^ Giorgio. "nh 500e 72°stormo".
  10. ^ The MD Helicopters MD-500/530. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  11. ^ a b OH-6A Cayuse, AH-6J Little Bird and Defender 500 specs. Retrieved on January 9, 2008.
  12. ^ 500MD/ASW Defender
  13. ^ "15th Strike Wing". Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  14. ^ Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAA) Retrieved on January 9, 2008.
  15. ^ a b "MD 530F CAYUSE WARRIOR".
  16. ^ a b c "MD 530F CAYUSE WARRIOR" (PDF).
  17. ^ "MD 530F Cayuse Warrior Helicopter". Air Force Technoloyy. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  18. ^ "FN® HMP400 Pod".
  19. ^ "FN® M3P".
  20. ^ "Afghanistan's Air Force Receives Five More MD-530F Helicopters". The Diplomat. 18 September 2021. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  21. ^ a b c "Afghanistan's Newest Attack Helicopter a 'Total Mess'?". The Diplomat. 18 September 2021. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  22. ^ MD Helicopters Announces New MD 540F -, 3 April 2012
  23. ^ "MD 530G Scout Attack Helicopter - Army Technology".
  24. ^ a b "MDHI secures US$43.9M in army contracts". Helicopters Magazine. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  27. ^ a b Jennings, Gareth (11 September 2018). "Afghanistan receives first recently ordered MD 530F helos". IHS Jane's 360. London. Archived from the original on 2018-09-12. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  28. ^ "Kenya commissions 6 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters".
  29. ^ Egozi, Arie (14 December 2017). "Lebanon to receive MD530Gs, ScanEagles from USA". Flight Global. Tel Aviv. Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  30. ^ "US to give Lebanon its first attack helicopters". AFP.
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Prefectura Naval Argentina H-6 (369)". Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  33. ^ "Croatia Air Force Aircraft Types". Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  34. ^ "Israel Air Force Aircraft Types". Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  35. ^ "Hughes Defender (Hebrew 'Lahatut' ('Sleight of Hand'))". Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  36. ^ Taylor, John W.R., ed. (1981). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1981-82 (72nd ed.). London: Jane's Publishing Co. pp. 380–383. ISBN 978-0710607294.
  37. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  • Rivas, Santiago (October 2015). "Fighting d Drug War". Air International. Vol. 89 no. 4. pp. 118–121. ISSN 0306-5634.

External links

  • MD Helicopters - MD530G
  • MD 500 Defender page on
  • IDF Defenders in action