#AUSA2010: Kiowa Warrior steals spotlight

After surviving two attempts to field a replacement scouthelicopter, the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is only getting strongeras the US Army considers a wide range of options for its future.

The Kiowa Warrior assumed a starring role on the service’sbiggest stage — the annual convention of the Association of the US Army.

Army officials revealed a new “Fox” model called the OH-58F,featuring long-awaited cockpit and sensor upgrades for the 26-year-old scouthelicopter fleet.The army also announced that Bell is resuming a production line for KiowaWarrior conversions that has lain dormant for about 15 years. The goal is toreplace 43 OH-58Ds lost in accidents and combat since 2003 with remanufacturedaircraft.

Both steps are strong endorsements in the future of anaircraft that could again be recommended for retirement within six months.An ongoing analysis of alternatives, commissioned in thewake of the 2007 cancellation of the Bell ARH-70 Arapaho, is setting the coursefor the future of the army’s scout helicopter fleet.

Army officials declined to release any new preliminaryfindings, although officials confirmed that a solely unmanned solution has beenruled out.

When the study is complete in the second quarter of nextyear, army planners could still point in any of several directions.

One optionis to launch a new development program for a high-speed aircraft, with thenewly-unveiled Sikorsky S-97 Raider as a top candidate.Another option is to park the Kiowa Warrior fleet for anoff-the-shelf aircraft that can meet the army’s most demanding new requirementfor so-called “high-hot” capability.

In mountainous Afghanistan, the OH-58D lacks enough powerfly missions when hovering out of ground effect at 6,000ft on a 35ºC (95ºF) dayis required. EADS North America and Lockheed Martin have teamed up toadapt the UH-72 Lakota utility helicopter into an armed scout. Three of theAAS-72X demonstrators are now in development. AgustaWestland, meanwhile, wouldoffer a militarised variant of the AW-119.

But the army may decide to capitalize on its current investmentsin the OH-58D, which include integrated a digitally-based glass cockpit and anose-mounted Raytheon common sensor payload (CSP).

But the OH-58D still fails to meet the new standard for high-hotperformance. Bellis proposing to replace the Rolls-Royce Model 250-CR30 with the HoneywellHTS900-2, a 50% more powerful alternative leveraged from the cancelled ARH-70.Rolls-Royce, however, has countered with an offer to increase the 250′s thrustby up to 12%.

If preserving the OH-58D is the army’s preferred approach,the army also can look at the AVX Corp., a Texas-based start-up founded bymostly former Bellengineers. AVX is proposing to transform the OH-58D into a compound helicopterwith about 25% greater speed and, according to AVX officials, at a fraction ofthe cost of the Bellreengining programme.


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