The OH-58 Kiowa has evolved over the years from the Vietnam era OH-58A to the latest development of the OH-58D(R). The original OH-58A was a two bladed, single engine, single pilot helicopter. To date the Department of the Army has 401on hand; however an acquisition objective of 507 Kiowa Warriors has been specified. Primarily assigned to division cavalry units the Kiowa Warrior is a critical element in reconnaissance for maneuver units. These units typically perform armed reconnaissance while completing screen, guard, and cover missions. The relatively small size and signature of the Kiowa Warrior allow it to maneuver with greater ease than larger helicopters. The Mast Mounted Sight (MMS) allows the aircraft to remain masked while exposing only the optics. Digital pictures can relay real time battlefield intelligence via secure SINCGARS radios.
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is the US Army's fielded armed reconnaissance aircraft. The Kiowa Warrior is equipped with a Mast Mounted Sight (MMS) with a Television System, Thermal Imaging system and Laser Rangefinder/Designator; Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation System; airborne Target Handover System or Improved Data Modem for digital communication, HAVEQUICK II UHF, two SINCGARS FMs, and VHF. The Kiowa includes two Universal Weapons Pylons for mounting a total of two of the following weapons systems: HELLFIRE missiles, Air-to-Air STINGER missiles, 2.75 inch Hydra 70 rockets, and/or a 50 caliber fixed machine gun.
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is the key to coordinating the Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT) efforts of the A-10 and AH-64. Working as an airborne command post, communications relay station and observation unit, the OH-58D can advise both the A-10's and the AH-64's about targets, terrain, enemy movements, possible problems with ground forces and air traffic conflicts. The OH-58D is capable of relaying real-time target data through digital data links between the OH-58D, the A-10 and the AH-64. It can instantly relay important flight information such as vectors, distances and enemy positions to the attack aircraft. Better for small conflicts than an AWACS, the OH-58D is also a capable observation aircraft and can land on unimproved airfields. A highly maneuverable aircraft, the OH-58D compliments and enhances the capabilities of the A-10 and AH-64 Apache.
Accident analysis by the US Army Safety Center indicates a significant increase in OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Class A-C accidents, throughout the fleet, from FY 99 to FY 01. Fortunately, none of these recent accidents have resulted in a fatality, but aircraft have been destroyed and personnel injured. For this FY alone, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Class A accident rates are more than five times greater than for any other aircraft. This trend points to a combination of material and human factors.
Nearly one third (31%) of the FY2001 Army aviation accidents occurred in Observation Helicopters (OH-58A/C/ DI/DR), but primarily in the DI and DR models. Six of the 13 Class A aviation accidents occurred in the OH-58--which accounts for a significant 46%. Fortunately, none of the accidents resulted in fatalities this year. Interestingly, these numbers for the entire "OH" series are nearly identical to the figures for FY2000. However, as reported by the Director of Army Safety, the OH-58DI by itself experienced a sizeable jump in accidents since FY00.
In response to this trend, the leadership of the Army convened an Army Safety Action Team at Redstone Arsenal in September 2001. An Action Team has been formed to conduct a detailed analysis of the causal factors and identify interim and long-term control measures to reverse the direction the OH-58D fleet has been headed. Until the Action Team can develop a long-term plan, it is essential that commanders take appropriate risk management steps based on the additional information provided.
The Comanche is intended to replace the current fleet of AH-1 and OH-58 helicopters in all air cavalry troops and light division attack helicopter battalions. Aviation battalions will be reorganized as part of the Army's 2000 Aviation Force Modernization Plan. AH-1 Cobras were divested by October 2001, and A and C model OH-58 Kiowas will be retired by 2004. The Cobras and Kiowas will be replaced by AH-64D Apaches and eventually by RAH-66 Comanches, the new reconnaissance and attack helicopter scheduled to begin joining the Army in 2008. Later-model Kiowas are scheduled for retirement in fiscal year 2013, according to the plan.
Under the Army Aviation Modernization Plan (AAMP) and the ongoing Army Aviation Transformation (AAT), the Army's primary OH-58A/C fleet is targeted for retirement by end FY04. Even if some OH-58A/C are temporarily retained past FY04, the Army logistical support base will be of limited use and a diminishing resource until available parts stocks are exhausted. The result is that not later than FY05 123 aging OH-58A aircraft in the Counterdrug Reconnaissance and Aerial Interdiction Detachments (CD RAID) mission will either have to be replaced by a newer series aircraft, or maintained at a significant and steadily increasing cost using commercial parts and contract support because the military will no longer train personnel to support this system.
While no direct validated feasibility study pertaining to CD RAID and the need for a light-twin engine helicopter exists; it is the position of NGB CD RAID to support the continued efforts for a modernized replacement aircraft, however, a maintenance/logistical trail must be included in any purchase and/or lease agreement for this effort. If the Army is unwilling or unable to provide out year OPTEMPO costs for any modernization program authorized by congress then NGB-CD would explore all options including lease agreements to support the requirements of the Governor's State CD Plans. Furthermore, CD RAID has proven itself as a viable asset in the Homeland Defense and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) missions. The authority for the National Guard Counterdrug Support Program (NGB-CD) exists under statutory authority SEC 112, Title 32 United States Code (32 USC 112). NGB Counterdrug Reconnaissance and Aerial Interdiction Detachments (CD RAID) have substantiated a proven need for replacement aircraft to ensure continued support to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The last of the 2,200 Kiowa helicopters manufactured came off the Bell production line in 1989. As of 2011 the Army fleet included only 330 Kiowa helicopters, which will be taken up to 368 through the Army's wartime replacement aircraft program. At that time the Kiowa Warrior fleet was about 35 years old, on average. Since the Vietnam War, Kiowa helicopters have been upgraded with technologies that have kept them in the fight, and that have allowed the helicopters to excel as combat changers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Two options for the aircraft include continuation of the Cockpit And Sensor Upgrade Program along with the Service Life Extension Program. That option comes to between $2.9 and $4.1 billion, he said. Another option, which would be to develop a replacement, might run as much as $12 billion.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|