The U.S. Army is hoping the Department of Defense will bless its request to conduct a demonstration later this spring of potential replacements for the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. This is good news for European Aerospace Defense Systems (EADS), the company which manufactures the UH-72A Lakota helicopter. EADS has prepared three demonstrator models for use should the demonstration be approved.

The OH-58 has been in service since 1991. Much smaller and lighter than the AH-64 Apache, the Kiowa is designated by the Army for “armed reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack and defensive air combat missions.” It replaced the AH-1 Cobra in certain roles, though the Apache took over heavier offensive functions.

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Easily identifiable by the mast-mounted sight (MMS) that sits atop the rotor (and allows the Kiowa to hover behind terrain features, exposing only the MMS), the helicopter has a design focused on making it small, light, and easily deployable. Two will fit inside a C-130, and the Kiowa can be ready to fly within a matter of minutes after it hits the ground.

With a combination of thermal imaging, low-light television, laser rangefinding and designation, and an optical boresight system, the OH-58 can function in nearly any weather or light conditions. Though its primary role is reconnaissance, it has two universal quick-change pylons that allow it to mount an impressive mix of ordnance: a two-round Hellfire missile pod, a two-round Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) pod, a seven-round Hydra 70 2.75-in. rocket pod, or a .50-caliber machine gun pod with 500 rounds.

It has a crew of two, who unlike in the Apache sit side-by-side, and has a range of 299 miles if unarmed. These birds were a frequent sight during my 2004-05 deployment to Iraq while we were attached to the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad, and used a pad near our motor pool where they would touch down briefly to conduct hot refueling. They were a welcome sight out in sector when we needed an “eye in the sky” or a little additional firepower.

Daniel is a 15-year veteran of infantry units of the Louisiana Army National Guard. He has deployed to Iraq twice (2004-05 and 2010) and currently serves as first sergeant of Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Daniel currently competes in combat shooting matches for both rifle and pistol with the National Guard.