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Friday, January 1, 2010

Rotorcraft Report: Kiowa Warrior Getting Band-Aid Upgrades

By Richard Whittle

Military | Mission Equipment

The Army’s OH-58 Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopter—the most heavily used aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan—is losing its distinctive mast-mounted sight. Brig. Gen. Tim Crosby, commander of the Army’s Program Executive Office for Aviation, said the sensor turret atop the mast will be replaced as part of “band-aid” fixes to keep the aging Kiowa Warrior flying. “We’re going to move that to the nose,” Crosby told reporters at the AUSA Conference. Each OH-58D will be fitted with Raytheon Corp.’s Common Sensor Payload, which combines color electro-optical imagery, image intensification, and infrared imaging with laser rangefinding, targeting and tracking. The Common Sensor Payload is also used on the Sky Warrior, the Army version of the Air Force’s Predator UAV. The Army had hoped to be replacing the Kiowa Warrior by now with a new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter made by Bell Helicopter Textron, which built the OH-58, but cost overruns led the Pentagon last year to cancel Bell’s ARH-70A, an armed version of its civilian 407. Putting a new sensor package on a helicopter the Army badly wants to replace is necessary, Crosby said, because the mast-mounted sensor on the OH-58 is so old that some of its parts are no longer made.

After the ARH-70A project failed, the Army had planned to start work on a new armed scout helicopter this year but was told to consider a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft for the mission. The service is doing an analysis of alternatives, to be completed within 18 months. “From that, we’ll start formulating and costing out programs and, frankly, it’s going to be in the realm of what we need and also we’re going to have to apply the reality check of what’s affordable,” Crosby said.

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