Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior

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Product Type:

Observation, Scout and Attack Helicopter

Using Service (US):

Army (incl. Army National Guard)

Program Status:

Pending retirement

Prime Contractor:

Bell Helicopter (Textron)

The U.S. Army's OH-58 Kiowa Warrior

About the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior:

The U.S. Army Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is a two-seat single-engine observation and scout/attack helicopter with four main rotor blades. The Kiowa utilizes a thermal-imaging system and a laser rangefinder/designator in a mast-mounted sight situated above the main rotor system. The Kiowa fleet is currently being retired/divested. The OH-58D is powered by a single Rolls-Royce T703-AD-700A (M250-C30R/3) turboshaft engine with 650 shp.

The Kiowa Warrior is rapidly deployable by air and can be fully operational within minutes of arrival. Two OH-58 aircraft can be transported in a C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft.

The first Kiowa Warriors were delivered in 1969 and served in Vietnam. In September 1981, the Army Helicopter Improvement Program introduced the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The aircraft was flight tested in 1983 and deliveries started in 1985.

From 2001 to 2010, the OH-58D accounted for nearly 50% of all army reconnaissance and attack missions flown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the highest usage rate of Army aircraft. While the OH-58 is designed to fly about 14 flight hours per month, it has been flying an average of 85-90 hours per month. As a result of the heavy use of the OH-58 in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the DoD's decision in October 2008 to cancel the ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program - the replacement aircraft for the OH-58), the Kiowa Warrior underwent major upgrades and modifications, including the Cockpit And Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP) and Weight Reduction Program. These two programs are described in detail in the following.

In its FY 2015 Budget, the Army decided to retire all Kiowa Warrior A, C and D models. It is unknown whether it will also retire already upgraded OH-58F models. The armed aerial scout mission will instead be performed by the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, AH-64 Apache, and RQ-7 Shadow until a permanent replacement has been found. It is estimated, the Army will be able to meet 80% of its armed aerial scout requirements using Apaches and UAVs.

DoD CASUP and Weight Reduction Program (terminated):

The OH-58D Cockpit And Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP) was a program to address additional capabilities, safety enhancements and obsolescence issues to allow the aircraft to safely serve as the Army's day/night, armed-reconnaissance, aviation platform until 2025 or when replaced/retired. The CASUP converted the OH-58D to the OH-58F configuration. Efforts included upgrading to Control Display Subsystem version 5 (CDS 5), adding a second AN/ARC-231 SATCOM radio, adding a third multifunction display (MFD), + armament enhancements. Further, the CASUP will replace the mast mounted sight with an advanced nose-mounted sensor, and other weight and obsolescence reduction upgrades. The new sensor, the Raytheon 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.

The fielded fleet upgrades and Weight Reduction Program increased safety by reducing aircraft weight, thus improving performance of the fielded fleet of OH-58D aircraft. The program also increased system reliability and reduced support costs. Efforts included removing obsolete and extraneous hardware, replacing armor panels with lighter versions, fielding lightweight floor armor, improving reliability of the current Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system, replacing the legacy MFDs with lightweight versions, providing a lighter weight and better positioned common transponder, improved .50 caliber gun, video data transfer system, reduced weight Hellfire missile launchers, the AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) from BAE Systems, a lightweight composite universal weapons pylon, improved lightweight heater system, and a Health Usage Monitoring System (HUMS). As a result of the Weight Reduction Program, the weight of a Kiowa Warrior was reduced by 160 pounds (73 kg), enabling the OH-58F to carry an extra 30 minutes of fuel, four Hydra-70 rockets or another 200 rounds of ammunition. The Army planned to eventually field 368 OH-58F Kiowa Warriors.


The Kiowa Warrior is equipped with two universal quick-change weapons pylons. Each pylon can be armed with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, seven Hydra-70 rockets, or one .50 caliber fixed forward machine gun. The armament systems combine to provide anti-armor, anti-personnel, and anti-aircraft capabilities at standoff ranges.


The aircraft operates autonomously at standoff ranges providing armed reconnaissance, command and control, and target acquisition/designation for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and other airborne weapons platforms in day, night, and adverse-weather conditions.

FY 2017 & FY 2018 - OH-58 DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Bell Helicopter (Textron),
and Rolls-Royce plc.

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