PICTURE: Bell flies OH-58 with new engine

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Bell Helicopter has completed first flight of a re-engined OH-58F Kiowa Warrior designed to meet the US Army's new requirements for a more powerful scout helicopter.

The internally funded OH-58 Block II climbed to about 500ft (150m) on its first flight at Bell's Xworx research and development facility near Fort Worth, Texas.

Last year, Bell revealed plans to integrate the Honeywell HTS900-2 engine on the OH-58 Block II, replacing the Rolls-Royce Model 250R-C2 installed on the operational fleet.

The HTS900-2 provides nearly twice the power of the R-R engine, potentially allowing the OH-58 to hover at 6,000ft in 35°C (95°F) temperatures.

 
© Bell Helicopter

The current OH-58 was originally designed to hover at 4,000ft in similar temperatures, but has struggled to keep pace as upgrades and modifications have increased its empty weight over the past three decades.

The army is considering several options for meeting the new requirement, including buying an all-new helicopter to replace the OH-58D.

Sikorsky is offering the S-97 Raider that is derived from the coaxial, high-speed X2 demonstrator. EADS North America and Lockheed Martin have proposed an armed scout version of the UH-72 Lakota called the AAS-72X. Boeing is offering the AH-6S Phoenix.

Other options include a design from start-up AVX, which would remanufacture the OH-58 with a coaxial rotor and pusher-propeller.

The army is not planning to make any contract decisions for at least a few years.

In the meantime, the service has decided to invest more than $1 billion to upgrade the OH-58D to the F-model standard, which includes new cockpit displays and replaces the mast-mounted DRS Technologies targeting sight with a nose-mounted Raytheon common sensor payload.