Officials from the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office, together with the US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center’s Prototype Integration Facility, announced that the first OH-58F Kiowa Warrior helicopter completed production and will be officially released to the Army to begin test and evaluation.
In May 2009, the Army authorized the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office to begin examining methods to upgrade the aging OH-58D KW. The Army also assumed the role of system integrator for the KW upgrade effort.
“Traditionally, a manufacturer would assume the development, integration, and production role. This is a whole new approach to modifying and upgrading Army Aviation Assets,” said Kiowa Warrior Helicopter Product Manager LTC, Mathew J. Hannah.
The 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. With the Army taking on the SI role, over $37M will be saved during the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation phase, and over $551M during the Procurement/Production phase. The government will also own many of the data rights necessary to foster full and open competition for production.
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. The helicopter 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, with a monthly OPTEMPO average of 80 hours per airframe. Throughout 2012, Kiowas have routinely flown over 100 hours a month. The 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 (CASUP), is the first designation change since 1990. The helicopter provides the Army Air Cavalry with significantly increased capabilities, including an improved sensor, 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, communications, and navigation systems. Perhaps most importantly, the OH-58F configuration provides the improvements while weighing less than the OH-58D.
The new OH-58F cockpit also gives KW pilots a wider variety of real-time information. Pilots can choose how the information is displayed or hidden, according to what is needed for a particular mission. Tailoring the data displays and providing live video comparison during a mission improves performance and response time.
The first official flight of the OH-58F KW is scheduled for April 2013, after clearing test and evaluation. Low rate production will begin in the spring-summer of 2015, with full rate production scheduled for the late winter of 2017.
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