The Kiowa Warrior is a Category I acquisition program. The Army plans to acquire approximately 400 Kiowa Warriors through either modification or retrofit of existing OH-58 Kiowas. The Kiowa Warrior replaces AH-1 attack helicopters currently found in air cavalry troops and light attack companies, and OH-58 Kiowas in air cavalry troops.

The basis for the latest Kiowa Warrior OA (1994) was the Dual Station Unit Fielding and Training Program (DSUFTP) 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 U.S. 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 in order to accomplish both testing and training objectives.

Using data from the DSUFTP, DOT&E concluded that the addition of the weapons, improved cockpit integration, and better navigational capability resulted in an aircraft that is much more effective than previous OH-58 models. Furthermore, the potential enhancements to mission planning and management provided by the aviation mission planning system and data transfer system were very apparent during the DSUFTP. These improvements were achieved without any noticeable impact on readiness as measured by the aircraft's demonstrated operational availability. However, two areas of concern were observed: (1) improved mast mounted sight operations, and (2) message interface with the Army's Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System.

Among the most critical concerns were the impact of weight growth on the aircraft's power margin, endurance, and autorotation performance and the impact of several important Interim Statement of Aircraft Qualification restrictions on the operational utility of the Kiowa Warrior. To address these and other concerns, a Safety Enhancement Program for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior was initiated to incorporate an improved engine with full authority digital electronic control, crashworthy crew seats, improved master controller processor and data modem. As currently planned, the Safety Enhancement Program involves a modification of 310 aircraft beginning in FY99. Another 77 received digitization upgrades on the production line. Seats and Cockpit Air Bag Systems are to be retrofitted by units at a later date.

The Kiowa Warrior LFT&E strategy was approved by DOT&E in July 1996. An updated strategy was submitted and approved in January 1999. It identified the hardware, tests, schedule, and resources necessary to carry out the program.

Army 1999 KIOWA WARRIOR annual report

OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Scout Helicopter

A light armed scout helicopter. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is one of a number of scout or light observation helicopters (LOH) to be provided enhanced mission capabilities by addition of armament and sophisticated electronic subsystems. The Bell (model 406) OH-58D Kiowa Warrior performs reconnaissance, security, command and control, target acquisition/designation, and defensive air combat missions. 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) missiles provide the Kiowa Warrior with protection against threat aircraft. The OH-58D is powered by a Rolls-Royce Allison 250-C30R/1 650 shp engine.

Improved Production Aircraft. Beginning in March 1997, a number of improvements were introduced into new production OH-58Ds resulting from Task Force XXI exercises that took place at Fort Irwin, CA in March 1997, to demonstrate the Army's concept of the "digital battlefield". These improvements include an improved Rolls-Royce Allison 250-C30R/3 650 shp engine equipped with an upgraded hot section to eliminate power drops and improve high-altitude/high-temperature performance. The C30R/3 will be fitted with a full authority digital electronic control (FADEC) system that will replace the hydromechanical fuel control unit. The improved production Kiowa Warrior will have a completely digital avionic suite consisting of an integrated cockpit control and display system with a digital moving map display, improved master control processor with digital map and video crosslink, along with an improved data modem, secure radio communications, and a GPS embedded in the inertial navigation system. Additional improvements include an infrared jammer, infrared suppressor, radar warning receivers, and a laser warning detector to improve aircraft survivability.

Improved Mast Mounted Sight System Processor (IMSP). The product improved aircraft will include a new high-speed digital signal processor that will provide improved tracking capabilities by split-screen in both TV and Thermal Imaging Sight (TIS) modes, low contrast target tracking, simultaneous multi-target tracking of up to six targets, moving target indicator, aided target recognition, and automatic reaquiring of targets lost due to obstruction. The operator video display will reflect real time TV zoom and still frame capabilities. The IMSP will replace the current configuration MMS System Processor (MSP).

System/Safety Enhancement Program (SEP). In 1998 Bell Helicopter Textron began retrofit of an initial 28 OH-58D Kiowa Warriors with system/safety upgrades. The first upgraded aircraft was delivered December 22, 1998. These improvements are identical to the improved production aircraft, including the improved Rolls-Royce Allison C30R/3 engine, but also add new energy attenuating cockpit seats. The Army plans to modify all 310 OH-58D helicopters in the fleet with this retrofit kit, at a rate of up to 48 helicopters per year, from 2000-2006.

Source: Aviation and Space Weekly

The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Helicopter fills the armed-reconnaissance role for attack helicopter and air cavalry units. It is the only practical, armed-reconnaissance aircraft in the Army inventory until RAH-66 fielding begins early in the next decade. It is capable of performing reconnaissance, security, command and control, target acquisition/designation, and defensive air combat missions.

The Kiowa Warrior adds armed-reconnaissance, light-attack and multipurpose light helicopter (MPLH) capabilities that permit rapid deployment, troop lift, cargo and casualty evacuation to the basic OH-58D Kiowa mission capabilities. The OH-58D has a mast-mounted sight that houses a thermal-imaging system, low-light television and a laser range finder/designator. A highly accurate navigation system permits precise target location that can be handed off to other engagement systems via the airborne target handover system. The laser designator can provide autonomous designation for the laser Hellfire missile or remote designation for other laser-guided precision weapons. The air-to-air Stinger (see Aircraft Rockets) provides security against threat aircraft. The armed retrofit program, begun in FY 1991, provides air-to-ground weapons and other improvements to previously produced OH-58Ds. The Army procured 411 Kiowa Warriors but has a current fleet size of 387 because of attrition.

A system safety enhancement program (SEP) began in 1997 to update a large portion of the Kiowa Warrior fleet with upgraded engines, improved master controller processor units (IMCPUs), crashworthy seats, cockpit air bags and a digitized mission equipment package. The SEP is retrofitting OH-58Ds to the latest production configuration: 250 C30R3 engines with full-authority, digital-engine control (FADEC); new processing systems to allow digital operations; an improved data modem (IDM); and attenuating crew seats.

According to the 2000 aviation force modernization plan, 177 OH-58Ds will have completed the SEP in FY 2001 with an additional 93 aircraft funded through FY 2005. In addition, a live-fire test and evaluation directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense will be conducted in the FY 2001-03 time frame to demonstrate survivability characteristics of the OH-58D and to improve operational characteristics as appropriate. The Comanche is slated to begin replacing Kiowa Warrior in FY 2007, and the Kiowa Warrior is projected to be retired by FY 2013.

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