The first OH-58F Kiowa Warrior has conducted its maiden flight at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. There are currently three aircraft with the U.S. Army—two OH-58Fs and one OH-58D with F model. Col. John Lynch, TRADOC capability manager, emphasized that the aircraft were the first to feature the CASUP (Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program) improvements.
The overall weight of the Kiowa Warrior has been reduced by 160 lbs, not a huge amount in terms of giving it better ‘hot and high’ performance, but as Col. Lynch said “they have been trading both fuel and ammunition in the fight; this means that a Kiowa Warrior could now have an extra 30 minutes fuel, four rockets or another 200 rounds of ammunition.” He later added that the new sensor would help the OH-58F in its mission: “We have been closer to the enemy than we ever envisaged [in Afghanistan].”
The main design change has been to strip the mast-mounted sensor away from the top of the aircraft and replace it with a Raytheon designed nose mounted AN/AAS-53 Common Sensor Payload, includes cutting-edge sensing technologies such as an advanced infrared camera, a color Electro-Optical camera and an image intensifier. Bell Helicopter was involved in resetting the landing gear to adjust for the height of the sensor off the ground and the change in weight balance of the aircraft.
OH-58F first flight. Photo by Denise DeMonia, Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office
The timeline for the OH-58F CASUP program is as follows: Milestone B was reached on Dec. 21, 2010 (allowing the aircraft to move into the development stage); the critical design review took place in 2012; the limited user test will be held in November 2014; Milestone C in March 2015; culminating in first unit equipped by late 2016. The Army’s intent is to eventually field 368 OH-58F Kiowa Warriors.
Lt. Col. Matt Hannah, product manager for the Kiowa Warrior, said that this has been the first Army helicopter to be integrated by the Army and built at the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC). Production will be transferred to the Corpus Christi Army depot in the fall 2013.
While Lt. Col. Hannah said that with the changes in the nose and tail boom, around 60 percent of the aircraft will be replaced. However, the remaining 40 percent is around 40 years old. This is not a service life extension program, or a replacement for an Armed Aerial Scout or a full service life extension program.
Related: Scout/Observation News