OH-58D Armed Kiowa Warrior
The Kiowa Warrior fills the armed reconnaissance role for attack helicopter and air cavalry units until RAH-66 fielding. The Kiowa Warrior adds armed reconnaissance, light attack, and Multipurpose Light Helicopter (MPLH = rapid deployment, troop lift, cargo, and casualty evacuation) to the basic OH-58D Kiowa mission capabilities.
The armed retrofit program began in FY91 and provided Air-to-Ground weapons and other improvements to previously produced OH-58Ds. The principal difference between the Kiowa Warrior and its immediate OH-58D predecessor is a universal weapons pylon on both sides of the aircraft capable of accepting combinations of the semi-active laser Hellfire missile, the Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) missile, 2.75" Folding Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR) pods, and a 0.50 caliber machine gun. In addition to these weapons, the Kiowa Warrior upgrade includes changes designed to provide improvements in air-to-air and air-to-ground communications, mission planning and management, available power, survivability, night flying, and reductions in crew workload through the use of on-board automation and cockpit integration.
AHIPs began retrofit/remanufacture in FY93 for the Armed Kiowa Warrior version. The Kiowa Warrior procurement plan is to acquire, through modification or retrofit of existing OH-58A and D aircraft, approximately 411 Kiowa Warriors. There are two concurrent programs which produce Kiowa Warriors: a program which modifies OH-58A aircraft, and a retrofit program that will eventually re-configure all 185 OH-58D Army Helicopter Improvement Program models. The Department of the Army has specified an acquisition objective of 507 Kiowa Warriors even though the procurement authorization was for only 411 of them. The OH-58D program is beyond the production and fielding phases. The last OH-58D production aircraft was delivered in October 1999.
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is a two-place single engine armed reconnaissance helicopter powered by the Rolls-Royce Allison 250-C30R/1 650 shp engine. The primary mission of the Kiowa Warrior is armed reconnaissance in air cavalry troops and light attack companies. In addition, the Kiowa Warrior may be called upon to participate in the following missions or tasks: Joint Air Attack (JAAT) operations; Air combat; Limited attack operations; and Artillery target designation. The OH-58D's highly accurate navigation system permits precise target location that can be handed-off to other engagement systems. The OH-58D has an infrared thermal imaging capability and can display night vision goggle flight reference symbology. It's laser designator/laser rangefinder can provide autonomous designation for laser-guided precision weapons. Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) issiles provide the Kiowa Warrior with protection against threat aircraft.
The Mast Mounted Sight (MMS) is one of the key elements of the Kiowa Warrior. Its unique day/night capabilities allow the crew to scan the battlefield with the ability to acquire, identify, and derive the coordinate locations of potential targets. The US Navy selected the Kiowa Warrior Mast Mounted Sight for use on their ships. They were so pleased with it's performance that they entered into a program to update the technology in the existing platform. Their current Mast Mounted Sight II sight is smaller, lighter in weight, and half the cost of the US Army MMS. In addition, the optics have been upgraded through the application of technology insertion. The dollar cost avoidance in acquisition, operations and support cost, and spare components to support this system on the Kiowa Warrior is potentially significant.
The mast-mounted sight enables the Kiowa Warrior to fight both day and night, at the maximum range of its weapons systems, with minimum exposure. The aircraft can remain concealed during all but a few seconds of an autonomous engagement, making it considerably more survivable than gunships with nose mounted sensors. Systems inside the mast-mounted sight include a high-resolution TV camera for long-range, low-light target detection and designation. The IR thermal imaging sensor supports navigation, target acquisition and designation at night or under obscured conditions. The Laser rangefinder/designator provides precise target location/ guidance of HELLFIRE missiles and Copperhead artillery rounds or handoff to AH-1 Cobra for TOW missile engagements.
The AIM-1 MLR (and DLR), a class IIIb infrared (IR) laser, provides a beam of light invisible to the naked eye. Its beam is said to be effective for aiming at ranges up to 3km. It is designed to operate in conjunction with standard night vision devices (its beam's impact point visible). The AIM-1 laser is boresighted to a point 2.8 inches vertically above the .50 Cal machine gun barrel bore center line of sight at a distance of 500 inches. This provides the proper offset for firing at a range of 1000 meters.
The Armed OH-58D has the most advanced integrated cockpit of any helicopter of its type. Crews operate in an environment of abundant information and ergonomic ease. With the first all-glass cockpit on a US Army helicopter, the primary multifunction displays provide vertical and horizontal situation information, communications control and mast-mounted sight video. Switches positioned on handgrips let crew select weapons, radio frequencies and displays without releasing flight controls. Onboard computation provides for laser ranging and target location to within 10 meters. The airborne target handover system provides digital target input to the artillery fire control computer center and airborne platforms platforms in millisecond databursts.
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior features include a video recorder for storing TV and thermal imagery from mission, with cockpit playback capability, and a data transfer system with data-loading module for pre-mission storing of navigation waypoints and radio frequencies. Other equipment includes night vision goggle flight reference symbology display, Have-Quick UHF and SINCGARS FM anti-jam radio, and displays to align and fire weapons.
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is ideally suited for worldwide contingency deployment. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is one of the most rapidly deployable helicopters in the world. With its folding rotor blades and releasable mast mounted sight, a four person team can make the Kiowa Warrior ready for aircraft shipment as few as ten minutes. An OH-58D can be in the air ready for combat anywhere on the globe in as few as seven minutes upon off-loading from an aircraft.
The Armed OH-58D's universal weapons pylons offer quick-change selection of the helicopter's diverse weapons systems. Flexible firepower enables the Kiowa Warrior to effectively engage both hard and soft targets, static or stationary, on the ground or in the air. In addition to its scout/attack role, the OH-58D can be optionally equipped to perform other important missions. The equipment kits that accommodate these missions are easily installed on existing hard points.
The first Kiowa Warrior was delivered to the Army in May 1991, replacing selected AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters (those that function as scouts in air cavalry troops and light attack companies), and OH-58A and C Kiowas in air cavalry troops. Initially a Full Material Release decision was scheduled for Q4FY94. However, the aircraft was able to attain only a "conditional" material release from the Army Materiel Command due to the autorotation issue and other safety concerns.
By 1994 the Army had determined that modifications in mission and equipment over time had created a deficiency in the Kiowa Warrior autorotation capability. In the event of an engine failure the helicopter descends in controlled flight through a maneuver called "autorotation" -- a maneuver requiring great pilot skills. In general terms, the cumulative addition of new equipment caused the weight of the aircraft to increase dramatically, meaning that in the event of an engine failure or other similar occurrence, the aircraft lost some of its original autorotative capability, causing the aircraft to descend faster and experience an extended ground slide upon touchdown. As a result, the Army developed a two-phase Safety Enhancement Program (SEP) to reduce the safety risk to Kiowa Warrior aviators. The SEP consists of both training and material changes.
The Dual Station Unit Fielding and Training Program (DSUFTP) was conducted by the Combat Aviation Training Brigade (CATB) at Ft. Hood in 1993. The planning and execution of the Kiowa Warrior DSUFTP, which consisted of both live fire and non-live fire force-on-force exercises, was coordinated between the CATB, the US Army OPTEC, and DOT&E to ensure that the program provided the opportunities needed to support an adequate OPEVAL. This was an innovative use of combined testing and training carefully coordinated to accomplish both testing and training objectives.
The addition of weapons, improved cockpit integration, and better navigational capability have resulted in an aircraft that is much more capable than its predecessor. Furthermore, the potential enhancements to mission planning and management provided by the aviation mission planning system (AMPS) and data transfer system (DTS) were very apparent during the DSUFTP. All of these improvements were achieved without any noticeable impact on readiness, as indicated by the aircraft's operational availability.