Army Has Relied On The OH-58D For Nearly 40 Years, And It's Not
The Kiowa Warrior OH-58D, the Army's primary armed
reconnaissance scout aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan, is about to
get a makeover that will extend its life well into the future.
U.S. Army Photo
Col. Robert Grigsby, project manager for the Kiowa Warrior
Product Management Office, Redstone Arsenal, AL, told aviation
writers during the 2010 Association of the U.S. Army's Annual
Meeting and Exhibition Tuesday that a new equipment package planned
for the OH-58D includes such items as an upgraded sensor, digital
inter-cockpit communications, and software for enhanced situational
awareness that will keep the aircraft fighting for years to come.
"Once the Army determines what the path to the future is for the
armed aerial scout, that will determine how long the Kiowa Warrior
will be in the inventory," he said. "What we've done is provide the
capability to keep this aircraft viable while the Army makes that
Several upgrades are slated for the OH-58D, which will be
re-designated as the F model, but perhaps the greatest with will be
the level-2 Manned-Unmanned teaming. Grigsby said this technology
will enable Kiowa aviators to receive and transmit full motion
video between other aircraft to include unmanned aerial vehicles.
Working with the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate at
Fort Eustis, Va., the system was successfully tested in July 2009
and recently integrated into the aircraft.
"This is the first opportunity for the scout aircraft to have
the same capability that was put into the Apache fleet and (it
will) give them the opportunity to see data in their cockpit that's
coming in from UAVs of a potential target area. This gives them
situational awareness prior to coming on the scene and (and enables
them to) be able to rapidly engage the target."
Kiowa pilots will now be able to transmit their own sensor data
to troops on the ground as well.
Among several other improvements to the aircraft will be an
advanced Nose Mounted Electro Optical Sensor, improved cockpit
control hardware, full-color multi-function displays, and digital
HELLFIRE missile future upgrades.
OH-58D U.S. Army Photo
Grigsby said all these changes will make the Kiowa Warrior more
effective on the battlefield. "What it will do in my opinion is
provide an aircraft that is more suited to the operational
environment in which our Soldiers are having to fly in, and allow
them to provide better support to the warfighter on the
For an aircraft the Army has relied on for 39 years and seen its
share of combat, the upgrades could not come at a better time.
Grigsby noted that since 2001, the Kiowa accounts for nearly 50
percent of reconnaissance and attack missions flown in Iraq and
Afghanistan, the highest of all Army aviation assets. He added that
while the aircraft is designed to fly about 14 flight hours per
month, the operational tempo from supporting two wars has
resulted in the OH-58D pulling lots of overtime. "We are flying an
average 85-90 hours per month on these aircraft because the
warfighter wants them flying. They depend on the Kiowa Warrior
being there when they need them. "
Meanwhile, Grigsby said changes to the OH-58 platform will come
over time. "It's an incremental approach to how we upgrade the
aircraft, to get it where it needs to be and provide the warfighter
with this enhanced capability," he added.
U.S. Army Photo
He said upgrades such as the reinforced floor armor is being
install now, while the man-ummanned teaming system is scheduled to
be installed in 2011. The Army plans for the OH-58F model to begin
fielding in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2015. In the
meantime, Grigsby said the Army intends to bolster its inventory of
the OH58D by continuing to convert older OH-58A models. There are
currently 331 Kiowa aircraft on hand after losing 44 of them since
2003 to enemy fire and accidents.
"We have an authorization to go out and buy wartime replacement
aircraft, so what we are doing is taking Alpha model OH58s and
converting them into D models. The plan is to eventually convert to
new metal production aircraft as we move forward and the supply of
OH-58A's dries up."