By Sgt. William Begley, 11th Public Affairs Det.October 18, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas -- With all of the innovations that have taken place on the battlefield and in the air over the last 37 years, it might be difficult for some to believe that the Army is still using helicopters that were in use during the Vietnam War. Yet, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter is still widely used by the Army today.
Senior aviators from III Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division flew a new helicopter Friday at Robert Gray Army Airfield on West Fort Hood that could potentially replace the OH-58 Kiowa. The flights were the first in a series of tests that could eventually replace the scout helicopter that has been in service for the Army since 1969.
"This is one of the models that are currently being looked at to replace the Kiowa, the OH-58D platform has been around since the Vietnam era," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Troy DeGolyer, command chief warrant officer, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cav. Div. "The reason for bringing in Army aviators, aircraft mechanics and crew chiefs into this mix is that the industry gets feedback from everybody as to help shape and build this aircraft to be competitive and actually fit as a replacement for the 58D."
DeGolyer flew with one of the pilots from American Eurocopter, designers of the civilian version of the Armed Aerial Scout 72X+ (plus), and ran through some simple flight maneuvers to demonstrate the flight characteristics and performance of the aircraft.
"It handled very well; the flight characteristics were great. The aircraft had great maneuverability and was very easy to fly," DeGolyer said.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Troy Wyatt was also on hand to fly the new aircraft. He was impressed with its performance as well. Wyatt is an AH-64D Apache Longbow pilot, D Company, 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB.
"It was a very clean and smooth flying aircraft. It has a lot of power and is incredibly agile," Wyatt said. "Coming from an AH-64 background it was a little less robust, that is to say the size, weight and feel of the aircraft differ greatly. But if I had the opportunity to fly it again I wouldn't turn it down."
While there are obvious differences between the AH-64D Apache Longbow and the AAS 72X+, the pilots were able to deliver valuable feedback to the industry professionals at American Eurocopter. That feedback will be used to provide the Army the scout helicopter that will meet its needs, such as having built-in redundancies like twin engines, as opposed to the single engine OH-58 Kiowa. If one engine is damaged in combat and fails, the pilots can still return home safely using the other engine.
Another senior aviator, Lt. Col. Karsten Haake, G-3 aviation, 1st Cav. Div. and a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, didn't fly the aircraft but took a hands-on look at it. He also listened to the briefings that outlined the capabilities of the aircraft. He summed up the experience.
"This is a great opportunity to see what is out there technologically and commercially for the future of Army aviation," he said.