Improved Kiowa Warrior helicopter ready for test
October 31, 2012
Officials from the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office, together with the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center's Prototype Integration Facility, have announced the first OH-58F Kiowa Warrior helicopter completed production and was released to the Army for test and evaluation.
The completion and release of the first OH-58F KW marked an important first for the Army.
"In May 2009, the Army authorized the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office to begin examining methods to upgrade the aging OH-58D KW," Kiowa Warrior helicopter product manager Lt. Col. Mathew Hannah said. "The Army also assumed the role of system integrator for the KW upgrade effort, a first in Army aviation. Traditionally, a manufacturer would assume the development, integration and production role. This is a whole new approach to modifying and upgrading Army aviation assets."
This approach to development, integration and production keeps government and contracted engineer developers working directly with military and government program management, allowing significant cost savings for the taxpayers. By the Army taking on the SI role, over $37 million will be saved during the research, development, test and evaluation phase, and over $551 million during the procurement/production phase. The government will also own many of the data rights necessary to foster full and open competition for production.
"With this success, the Army is poised to improve competition throughout the acquisition process, for the OH-58F Kiowa Warrior, and for future platforms to come," ASH project manager Col. Robert Grigsby said.
Completing the first OH-58F KW is also a critical evolutionary milestone for the OH-58 helicopter, an aircraft that many consider the most demanded platform in the Army's inventory. The OH-58D KW has flown continuously for nearly 25 years, and may be required to fly for another 20 years or more. In all theaters of operation, the OH-58D KW performs the armed reconnaissance mission to collect critical information for ground troops and serves as the eyes and ears of the ground commanders on the battlefield across the globe.
The OH-58D KW also maintains the highest operational tempo of any Army aviation asset in theater, with a monthly op-tempo average of 80 hours per airframe. Throughout 2012, Kiowas have routinely flown over 100 hours a month. This pace is even more impressive considering that the aircraft has not had comprehensive, depot-level modernization since the upgrade from the unarmed OH-58D Army Helicopter Improvement Program to the armed OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in 1990.
The OH-58F, originally known as the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program, is the first designation change since 1990, and provides the Army air cavalry with significantly increased capabilities, including an improved sensor, and redesigned digital cockpit with upgraded cockpit display software, an additional full-color display and the ability to simultaneously view and compare different sources of video. Other modifications include an upgraded and flexible weapons suite, and improvements to engine performance as well as the communications and navigation systems. Perhaps most importantly, the OH-58F configuration provides these critical improvements while weighing less than the OH-58D, allowing commanders more flexibility with mission endurance and lethality.
"The new OH-58F cockpit provides KW pilots with a wider variety of real-time information," TRADOC capabilities manager Col. John Lynch said. "Pilots can choose how that information is displayed or hidden according to what is needed for that mission. Tailoring data displays and providing live video comparison during a mission improves performance and response time, and when it comes to getting information to division commanders or Soldiers on the ground, seconds count."
The first official flight of the OH-58F KW is scheduled for April 2013, after clearing test and evaluation. Aircraft 2 is also in production, and is scheduled for release to the Army in March 2013. Low rate production will begin in the spring-summer of 2015, with full rate production scheduled for the late winter of 2017.
The CASUP effort supports Madison County/Huntsville employers with 27 local government organizations and contractors participating in the OH-58F development and build process. In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, OH-58F/CASUP infused approximately $32 million into the local economy, with an additional $7 million planned for fiscal 2013.