The single-engine, single-rotor Bell OH-58 Kiowa gives the provides the U.S. army with a versatile helicopter that is ideal for a wide range of missions. The OH-58 was manufactured specifically for the United States Army, borrowing on the design of the 206A JetRanger helicopter. The OH-58 has been in constant use by the U.S. Army, providing surveillance, utility and direct fire support since its inception in1969. Following the U.S. Army’s naming convention for helicopters, the OH-58A was named Kiowa in honor of the Native American tribe.
More about the OH-58 Kiowa
The OH-58 Kiowa is arguably the most successful military helicopter for observation, direct fire support and utility transportation. It was manufactured by Bell Helicopter for the US Army and has been in uninterrupted use since 1969. The Kiowa is based on the Bell 206A Jet Ranger Helicopter.
Around 2,200 helicopters were produced from 1966 to 1989 in the US by Bell Helicopters. The latest model is still produced under license in Australia. The Kiowa has a proven success record as a reconnaissance aircraft for ground troops. Heavily armed versions of the Kiowa are powerful weapons that can protect convoys against guerrilla-style ambushes.
Like all major US Army helicopters, the Kiowa was first deployed in Vietnam where they were used mainly for reconnaissance. Over the course of the war the aircraft proved to be very useful in conducting damage assessments and spotting artillery positions. However, the extensive deployment meant more risk and more than 45 OH-58 Kiowa helicopters were shot down by fire.
In 1979, the establishment of mast-mounted sights to the existing airframes enabled the Kiowa to carry out surveillance missions while keeping cover behind terrain and trees. This greatly improved safety against flak shells which the Kiowa was vulnerable to.
With advance surveillance systems and defense armament the Kiowa became even more useful and dependable than before. The OH-58D models served in the Iraq war and are still used by the US Army in Afghanistan.
Design and Capabilities
The main rotor of the Kiowa is powered by a 650hp Rolls Royce turbo-shaft engine. The main airframe has the traditional single-rotor structure with a tail rotor to provide control over the yaw angle. The entire aircraft is 42ft 2in long, 12ft 10in high and has a 35ft rotor diameter.
The two prominent design features are the Mast Mounted Sight and the Wire Strike Protection System. The Mast Mounted Sight is a beach-ball shaped module which sits above the main rotor. The module includes cameras, thermal imaging equipment and a laser guidance system. The Wire Strike Protection System comprises of knife-like projections above and below the cockpit. These projections protect the helicopter against wire-strikes during low level flight in urban environments by cutting electric cables in the flight path.
Stub wings can also be mounted on either side of the helicopter. These provide platforms for weapon systems, extra fuel tanks and special surveillance equipment. Armament on a Kiowa includes Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Hydra 70 rockets, .50cal machine gun systems and air-to-air missiles.
The performance facts of OH-58 Kiowa are as follows:
Max Speed 138 mph
Cruise Speed 117 mph
Max Altitude 19,000ft
The new improved version of the OH-58 Kiowa is known as the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The OH-58D model has better performance. The performance facts for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior are:
Max Speed 149mph
Cruise Speed 127mph
Max Altitude 15,000ft
The Kiowa is used by the armies of 6 nations, including the United States. Previous users included Australia and Canada, both of which replaced the Kiowa with other helicopters.