The US Army has been cleared to launch a nearly four-year, $1.98 billion project to develop the first major technology upgrade for the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in two decades.
The cockpit and sensor upgrade programme (CASUP) will convert the army's armed scout helicopter into the OH-58F model, with funding transferred from a cancelled programme that would have replaced the Kiowa Warrior with the Bell ARH-70 Arapaho.
© Rex Features
The cockpit and sensor upgrade programme will convert the OH-58D (above) into the OH-58F
The OH-58 fleet is now programmed to remain in service until 2025, or nearly 56 years after the first examples were delivered.
Lt Col Scott Rauer, Kiowa Warrior product manager, describes CASUP as a "fairly significant investment of dollars".
The work will replace the current aircraft's DRS Technologies mast-mounted sensor with a nose-mounted Raytheon common sensor payload. This will require airframe design changes, including raising the landing gear and rearranging the nose compartment.
"It provides long-term sustainment and viability for the aircraft to continue its mission because the aircraft has evolved in the battlefield," Rauer says.
However, the army may have to revisit the upgrade strategy for the OH-58 after April, when an analysis of alternatives is scheduled to be released presenting options for a long-term replacement. The study is considering a wide range of possibilities, including a more powerful, re-engined version of the OH-58.