OH-58D Kiowa Advanced Helicopter Improvement Program (AHIP)
The OH-58D Kiowa Advanced Helicopter Improvement Program (AHIP) aircraft is a highly modified version of the OH-58A/C Kiowa. The Mast Mounted Sight [MMS] employed on the OH-58D Kiowa helicopter carries day and night acquisition sensors and laser rangefinders. They also support a highly accurate navigation system that provides precise target location data. Those helicopters equipped with the MMS have a distinctive ball on top of their rotors.
OH-58D aircrews must be prepared to support operations at all levels of command. Often this support is conducted with minimal guidance, prior planning, and under some of the most severe adverse environmental conditions. Kiowa Warrior battalions/squadrons enable the force commander to rapidly concentrate combat power at the decisive time and place on the battlefield. They provide the force commander a highly mobile and rapid means of moving lethal combat systems throughout his area of operations. Additionally, the attack helicopter battalions, air cavalry squadrons, supporting assault battalions, along with appropriate fire and close air support, and required air defense support, provide the force commander with a robust air assault force capable of moving large numbers of combat soldiers great distances. They operate throughout the battlefield framework and are capable of conducting operations day and night.
In 1977 designs were formulated for an Advanced Scout Helicopter to accompany the new YAH-64 attack. Within a few years, the Advanced Scout Helicopter concept was terminated at Congressional direction, and work began on the US Army Helicopter Improvement Program [AHIP], which entailed modification and modernization of the OH-58 Kiowa to fill the advanced scout helicopter role. The AHIP was won by Bell Helicopter in September 1981, leading to the development of the versatile armed Bell (model 406) OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopter. In its role as the Army's multi-purpose light helicopter, the AHIP can be reconfigured for use as a troop transport, MedEvac, or for external lift missions using an external hook. The OH-58D completed operational tests in March 1985.
A hostile gunboat presence at night in the Persian Gulf in 1987 created the need for a small armed scout helicopter for interdiction. Close team work between the U.S. Armed Forces and Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. completed the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in less than 100 days, to counter this threat. Some 15 armed OH-58D helicopters designated "Prime Chance" were shipped to the Persian Gulf where they were based aboard US. Navy vessels, protecting the vital sea lanes for the world's oil supply. The "Prime Chance" aircraft accumulated 7,500 hours Night Vision Goggles (NVG) flight time.
Initially fielded with the 18th Aviation Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, the Kiowa Warrior proved to be a real "show-stopper" to the small speedy gunboats. After just two incidents, the gunboats would no longer venture out at night. The impact of the OH-58D was so great that shortly after they arrived in the Persian Gulf, there were no more mining or harassment incidents to friendly shipping.
Initial deployment of the OH-58D aircraft onboard Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf under Task Force 118 (Operation Prime Chance), with Navy Corrosion Prevention and Control Program (CPC training and procedures provided to unit personnel, resulted in minimal aircraft and equipment corrosion deficiencies. Following rotation of initial cadre and support personnel, with no CPC training for incoming personnel, institutional knowledge and continuity for CPC procedures perished. The consequences of this situation were extensive aircraft and equipment corrosion deficiencies, which created a substantial negative impact on aircraft readiness.
Prior to the deployment of troops in support of Operation Desert Storm, the Army Missile Command [MICOM] began the A5A retrofit to improve the reliability of the system processor for the MMS. Initial retrofit efforts attempted to complete all units before they departed for Southwest Asia. However, because of the rapid call-ups and the even faster deployment, all units could not be retrofitted before shipping out. In an effort to maintain the readiness posture of the OH-58D MMS helicopter, a Special Repair Activity (SRA) was established in the United Arab Emirates. Contractor person- nel manned the SRA and made repairs to specific assemblies and line replaceable units of the MMS system. This effort continued through May 1991.
During Desert Storm, the 115 OH-58D helicopters in-country participated in a wide variety of critical combat missions and proved vital to the success of the overall ground forces mission. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm the OH-58D flew nearly 9,000 hours with a 92 percent full mission capability. The Kiowa Warrior enjoys the lowest ratio of maintenance hours to flight hours of any combat helicopter in the Army. In the 1990s the Kiowa Warrior has been deployed to numerous trouble spots around the world in support of US Forces including Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia.
All OH-58D Scout aircraft have been converted to the armed OH-58D(I) Kiowa Warrior configuration.
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