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.
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.