MD Helicopters MD 500

Hughes/MD 500 series
An MD 500E
Role Light utility helicopter
Manufacturer Hughes Helicopters
McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems
MD Helicopters, Inc.
Introduction 1982
Status In service
Primary user Korean People's Air Force
Various police agencies
Produced 1976–present
Number built 4,700[1]
Developed from Hughes OH-6 Cayuse
Variants McDonnell Douglas MD 500 Defender
MD Helicopters MD 600

The MD Helicopters MD 500 series is an American family of light utility civilian and military helicopters. The MD 500 was developed from the Hughes 500, a civilian version of the US Army's OH-6A Cayuse/Loach. The series currently includes the MD 500E, MD 520N, and MD 530F.

Design and development

A Hughes 500 Model 369HS
A Hughes 500 Model 369D

The successful Hughes 500/MD 500 series began life in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a light observation helicopter.[2] Hughes' Model 369 won the contest against competition from Bell and Hiller. The OH-6 Cayuse first flew in February 1963.

The 500 series design features shock-absorbing landing skid struts, a turboshaft engine mounted at a 45-degree angle toward the rear of the cabin pod, a fuel tank cell under the floor and the battery in the nose. The engine exhaust port is located at the end of the cabin pod underneath the tail boom. It has a short-diameter main rotor system and a short tail, giving it an agile control response and is less susceptible to weather-cocking.

Hughes won the U.S. Army's LOH contest with its OH-6 helicopter by submitting a very low and aggressive price per airframe (without an engine). Due to rising prices, the U.S. Army later re-opened the contest, where Hughes offered the machine at a more realistic price, but was undercut by the redesigned Bell OH-58 Kiowa (military JetRanger). OH-6 helicopters were still ordered by the U.S. Army, though at a much reduced number.

Hughes/MD 500

Prior to the OH-6's first flight, Hughes announced it was developing a civil version, to be marketed as the Hughes 500, available in basic five and seven seat configurations.[2] A utility version with a more powerful engine was offered as the 500U (later called the 500C).

The improved Hughes 500D became the primary model in 1976, with a more powerful engine, a T-tail, and new five-blade main rotor; a four-blade tail rotor was optional.[2] The 500D was replaced by the 500E from 1982 with a pointed nose and various interior improvements, such as greater head and leg room. The 530F was a more powerful version of the 500E optimized for hot and high work.

McDonnell Douglas acquired Hughes Helicopters in January 1984, and from August 1985 the 500E and 530F were built as the MD 500E and MD 530F Lifter.[2] In 2014 an MD530F performed airshow acrobatics, piloted by eighty-two-year-old Dennis Kenyon.[3] Following the 1997 Boeing-McDonnell Douglas merger, Boeing sold the former MD civil helicopter lines to MD Helicopters in early 1999. Military variants are marketed under the MD 500 Defender name.

MD 520N


The MD 520N introduced a revolutionary advance in helicopter design, dispensing with a conventional anti-torque tail rotor in favor of the Hughes/McDonnell Douglas developed NOTAR system.[2] Exhaust from a fan is directed through slots in the tail boom, using the Coandă effect to counteract the torque of the main rotor, and a controllable thruster at the end of the tail boom is used for yaw control. Because the fan is enclosed in the tail boom, tail rotor noise—the major source of noise from most conventional helicopters—was significantly reduced. It also eliminated the vulnerable exposed tail rotor blades, eliminating the possibility of persons being injured or killed on the ground and the cause for many confined area maneuvering accidents.

McDonnell Douglas originally intended to develop the standard MD 520N alongside the more powerful hot-and-high optimized MD 530N; both were launched in January 1989 and were based on the conventional MD 500E. The MD 530N was the first to fly, on December 29, 1989, and the MD 520N first flew on May 1, 1990. Development of the MD 530N was suspended when McDonnell Douglas decided that the MD 520N met most customer requirements for the 530N. Certification for the MD 520N was awarded on September 13, 1991, and the first was delivered on December 31 that year.

In 2000, MD Helicopters announced enhancements to the MD 520N, including an improved Rolls-Royce 250-C20R+ engine with 3% to 5% more power for better performance on warm days, and, with changes to the diffuser and fan rigging, increased range.

Operational history

El Salvador

During the Salvadoran Civil War, the Salvadoran Air Force operated six MD 500Ds, which were supplemented later by nine MD 500Es supplied by the United States in 1983. These were used as gunships, armed with 7.62 mm Miniguns and unguided rockets, as well as being used for reconnaissance and liaison duties. One MD 500D and two MD 500Es were lost to SA-7 missiles in 1989 and 1990. By the end of the conflict, only one MD 500D and six MD 500Es were in operational condition.[4]

North Korea

In 1985, North Korea circumvented U.S. export controls to indirectly buy eighty-seven U.S. manufactured civilian versions of the Hughes MD 500 before the U.S. government stopped further deliveries. Reports indicate that at least sixty of the helicopters delivered were modified as gunships. Because South Korea licenses and produces the MD 500 for use in its armed forces, the modified helicopters were useful in North Korea's covert or deceptive operations.[5]

The aircraft were finally unveiled by the North Koreans and seen by the West during the Victory Parade held on 27 July 2013 in Pyongyang on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Images and analysis show that they have been modified to carry Soviet AT-3 Sagger anti-tank wire-guided missiles.[6]


Military prototype designated YOH-6A.
Military production designated OH-6.
MD 500C (369H)
Improved five-seat commercial variant powered by an Allison 250-C18B rated at 317 shp (236 kW); certified in 1966.
Kawasaki-Hughes 369HS
Built under license by Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan alongside OH-6J.
MD 500M Defender (369HM)
Military export version as the MD 500 Defender; certified in 1968.
MD 500C (369HS)
Improved four-seat commercial variant by an Allison 250-C20 rated at 400 shp (298 kW); certified in 1969.
MD 500C (369HE)
A 369HS with higher standard interior fittings, Certified in 1969.
MD 500D (369D)
New commercial version from 1976 powered by an Alison 250-C20B rated at 420 shp (313 kW); certified in 1976.
MD 500E (369E)
Executive version of the 500D with recontoured nose; certified in 1982.
Italian-built version of the 500E. License-produced by Breda Nardi before merging with Agusta.[1]
MD 530F (369F)
Hot and high version of the 500E powered by an Allison 250-C30B rated at 650 shp (485 kW), certified in 1985.
MD 520N
NOTAR version of the 500E, certified in 1991.
Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator and AH-6
A civilian 530F modified by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems to develop UAV technologies for both civilian and military applications.[7]


For military variants, see McDonnell Douglas MD 500 Defender and Hughes OH-6 Cayuse


Kern County Sheriff's MD 500E

The MD 500 is widely operated by private individuals, companies and law enforcement agencies around the world.

 Democratic People's Republic of Korea
 United States


Model 500C

Data from The International Directory of Civil Aircraft[2]

General characteristics


Model 500E

Data from "MD Helicopters web site" (PDF). 

General characteristics


MD 530F

Data from The International Directory of Civil Aircraft[2]

General characteristics


See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. 1 2 "The MD Helicopters MD-500/530". Retrieved 2008-01-16.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Frawley, Gerard (2003). The International Directory of Civil Aircraft, 2003-2004. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd. p. 155. ISBN 1-875671-58-7.
  3. Bodenstein, Willie. "AAD Airshow" Video Pilot's Post, September 2014. Accessed: 24 September 2014.
  4. Cooper, Tom. "El Salvador, 1980-1992". Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  7. "Boeing Manned/Unmanned Light Helicopter Makes First Flight" (Press release). Boeing. 9 October 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  8. "HAWCS: Calgary's Eye in the Sky". Helicopters Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  9. Rivas 2015, p. 121.
  10. El Tiempo: La Policía del Azuay recibe hoy helicóptero (Spanish)
  11. Finnish Defence Forces (Finnish)
  12. Amerikai helikopterek Magyarországon ("American helicopters in Hungary") (Hungarian)
  13. "World Air Forces 2013" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  14. Roelofs, Erik (April 2012). "Italy's Flying Foresters". Air International. Vol. 82 no. 4. pp. 78–81. ISSN 0306-5634.
  15. "ACADEMI -- ex-Blackwater -- Boosts State Dept Business, Eyes Acquisitions". Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  16. "Columbus Police Helicopter Unit". Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  17. "Glendale Police Newsletter" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  18. "Hawaii County Fire Dept replaces 500D with new 500E". Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  19. "Houston Police Dept celebrates 40 years of air support". Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  21. "MD Helicopters Delivers New MD 530F to Las Vegas Metro Police Department". Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  22. "Mesa police add $3.2M helicopter to crime-fighting tools". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  23. "Pasadena Police hold public launch of new 500E". Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  24. Aviation Division
  25. "ASTREA - Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies". Retrieved 2013-02-28.
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