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MD 500 Defender
An NH-500E2 license built by Breda Nardi NH for the Italian Air Force
Role Light multi-role helicopter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Hughes Helicopters
McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems
First flight 1976
Status Active service in production
Primary users Republic of Korea Army
Iraqi Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Philippine Air Force
Produced 1976-present
Number built 471
Developed from 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.

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).

In December 2012, Boeing demonstrated their Unmanned Little Bird to the South Korean Army. The pilotless aircraft flew autonomously for 25 minutes. The purpose of the demonstration was to show unmanned capabilities technologies, such as enhanced ISR and resupply, in the system that could be integrated into Army MD 500 helicopters.[1]

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 and 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 is offering their AH-6 Little Bird 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.[2]


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)[3] and Breda Nardi in Italy.
500M/ASW Defender
Export version for the Spanish Navy.
NH-500M Defender
Italian-built version of the 500M Defender. Licensed by Breda Nardi before merge with Agusta.[4]
500MD Defender
Military version of the 500D.
500MD/ASW Defender
Maritime version of the 500MD Defender.
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.

The Philippine Air Force MD-520MG Light Attack Helicopter

520MG Defender
Philippine military version. Special Forces version, modified 500MG Defender to carry weapons and operate as a light attack aircraft.
520MK Black Tiger
South Korean-built military version, built by Korean Air Aerospace Division,[5] Korean Air's aerospace division from 1976 to 1984 with 200 choppers made.[6] 50 were armed with TOW anti-tank missiles and 150 choppers used for transportation and support duties.[6]
530MG Defender
Military version of the 530F.
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.[7]


For civilian operators see MD 500 series

Military operators

 El Salvador
 South Korea
 Republic of China (Taiwan)
United States

Former operators


Specifications (500MD)


Data from[citation needed]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1-2
  • Capacity: 4-5 passengers
  • Length: 23 ft 0 in (7.01 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
  • Disc area: 544.63 ft² (50.60 m²)
  • Empty weight: 1,320 lbs (599 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 3,000 lbs (1361 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × One Allison 250-C20B Turboshaft, 420 hp (313 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 160 mph (257 km/h)
  • Range: 230 miles (370 km)
  • Service ceiling: 13,800 ft (4,205 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,650 ft/min (503 m/min (8.4 m/s))


  • four TOW anti-tank missiles, or
  • two 7.62mm General Electric M134 Miniguns, 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


    1. Little Bird demo for the Republic of Korea -, December 14, 2012
    2. Lynn Tilton Bests Boeing in Helicopter Arbitration -, 25 July 2013
    3. Frawley, Gerard: The International Directory of Military Aircraft, page 97. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2
    4. The MD Helicopters MD-500/530. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
    5. Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAA) Retrieved on January 9, 2008.
    6. 6.0 6.1 OH-6A Cayuse, AH-6J Little Bird and Defender 500 specs. Retrieved on January 9, 2008.
    7. MD Helicopters Announces New MD 540F -, 3 April 2012
    8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    9. "Argentina MD-500D". Demand media. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    10. "Chile Army MD530". Demand media. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    11. "El Salvador Air Force MD500". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    12. "Finnish Army MD-500E". Demand media. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    13. "SOFEX 2012: Arab Spring blamed for slow-moving Little Bird contract". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    14. "South-Korean Army 500MD-Defender". Demand media. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    15. "Philippines since 1945". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    16. "Hughes 500MD/ASW Defender". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    17. "Prefectura Naval Argentina H-6 (369)". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    18. "Croatia Air Force Aircraft Types". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    19. "Israel Air Force Aircraft Types". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
    20. "Hughes Defender (Hebrew 'Lahatut' ('Sleight of Hand')". Retrieved 26 February 2013. 

    External links

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