By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneMay 6, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Lt. Col. Mike Demirjian is excited about the "gift" he will be taking home following the Army Aviation Association of America's Annual Professional Forum and Exposition.
He spent much of his convention time April 17-20 in the Aviation and Missile Command's exhibit booth, standing near a newly repaired OH-58D Kiowa Warrior that will be flown to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., and turned over to the 3rd Infantry Division's 3-17 Cavalry soon after the forum.
As squadron commander of the 3-17 CAV, Demirjian said the Kiowa is much needed in his mission to "get my squadron back up to full capability."
During an April 19 handover ceremony at AMCOM's exhibit at the aviation association's forum and exposition at Opryland's Gaylord Hotel, AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers gave Demirjian the Kiowa's log books.
"Receiving this aircraft today gets me back to a healthy point where I actually have the aircraft I need to train my new aviators," Demirjian said.
This is the second OH-58D Crash Battle Damaged helicopter repaired by the Corpus Christi Army Depot, a crucial program to increase the number of Kiowa Warriors at a time when cost-effective measures are critical to support the war effort.
"This is all about getting aircraft back into the hands of Soldiers," Rogers said during the handover presentation. "We are making sure that those battle crashed aircraft that would normally be scrapped are put back together because we don't have any more 58s. There is no production line. This is all about taking care of our Soldiers and getting aircraft back in the fight."
The aircraft will be flown to Hunter Army Airfield by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andrew Diener, who is chief of flight test and an OH-58D maintenance test pilot at Corpus Christi.
"This Kiowa crashed belly flat, tail down in Afghanistan," Diener said. "It has a new transmission and new engine, a new transmission deck and engine deck, a new tail bone. Seventy-five percent of it is new."
CCAD, together with the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office, Aviation and Missile Command, Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, and Bell Helicopter inducted the crash-damaged OH-58D aircraft in 2008, beginning the process to return combat power to the American Soldier.
The helicopter was repaired and rebuilt during a 300-day project at Corpus Christi.
Currently, the 3-17 CAV is short 39 OH-58D Kiowas. Besides accepting the repaired OH-58D, the unit is also having modifications made to convert its OH-58A models to D models.
"This is absolutely wonderful," Demirjian said of the repaired OH-58D. "I couldn't ask for a better product. This is essentially brand new.
"It's great that AMCOM and CCAD are doing this because the Kiowa community is in short supply of its helicopters."
Currently, the 3-17 CAV has 14 aircraft, with seven of those in reset at any given time. Used extensively in Afghanistan, the OH-58 Kiowa Warriors are in short supply due to their previously proposed phase-out and replacement by the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, a program that has since been cancelled. The OH-58 production line ended in 1999.
The 3-17 CAV is made up of 60 line pilots, with a total staff of about 80, including staff aviators like Dimerjian.
"This will be our 15th D model Kiowa. We are supposed to get up to 30," Dimerjian said. "We are in need of these helicopters because we are in training and preparation to deploy. We are scheduled for a deployment in the next two years. We will train our pilots with whatever aircraft we have."
The Kiowa Warrior, a single-engine, two-seat reconnaissance and direct-fire support aircraft, has logged more than 600,000 combat hours between Iraq and Afghanistan, where it battles sand, snow and high altitudes. It is known for its ability to get "danger close" to the enemy to draw attention away from ground forces.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Deanne Murawsky is just as excited as Dimerjian to have the repaired Kiowa in the 3-27 CAV's fleet. She chose to be a Kiowa helicopter pilot because of the helicopter's capability to make a difference on the battlefield for ground forces.
"It gives me the most opportunity to support the ground troops," said Murawsky, who has deployed once to Afghanistan.
"I'm very thankful for the Kiowa. It's an amazing piece of equipment. And, it's nice to know, that if one of them crashes, it can be repaired and put back into the fleet. I'm glad a crash is not the end of its life."
Every Kiowa Warrior is an integral part of the Army's force projection in theater and will be a critical piece of combat aviation brigades for several more years. The project manager instituted the Kiowa repair program as part of the Army's effort to reduce platform sustainment costs and contain the expense of replacing aging helicopters.
Dimerjian said the work being done to repair Kiowas is just another example of how AMCOM and its partners are supporting aviators in the field.
"Everything you guys do at Redstone benefits us. We know you are there to help us," Dimerjian said. "We know you guys have worked tireless hours getting us quality products and we do appreciate it."