Army Evaluating Potential Kiowa Warrior Replacements

Well, it’s finally happening. Months after the Army was originally supposed to have industry show off the best choppers out there, in a weird variant of a fly-off, for the armed aerial scout mission, it looks like the service’s aviation officials are on the road to eye the potential replacements for the ancient OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet.

Just this week, service officials were in Philadelphia eying Agusta Westland’s AW139M armed aerial scout tech demonstrator. You can bet that Army aviation staff will be checking out Boeing’s AH-6i Little Bird variant, EADS’ armed version of its UH-72 Lakota, Bell’s upgraded version of the Kiowa Warrior and even Sikorsky’s long shot bid.

Via Defense News:

It appears that Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland is the first stop on the U.S. Army’s summer tour of potential competitors for the nascent Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) competition.

Paul Elliott, the company’s vice president for Army business development, said that Army officials arrived at the company’s facilities June 25 in Philadelphia and are being shown a technology demonstrator the company has constructed. The demonstrator showcases the capabilities AgustaWestland plans to offer if the Army pursues the AAS helicopter program, instead of recapitalizing the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet.

The technology demonstrator is the AW139M, a variant of the AW139 helicopter flown by military and law enforcement customers around the world.

Elliott said the company plans to submit a new AW169 aircraft to the Army. But since the helicopter only had its first flight test in May at the company’s Cascina Costa plant in Italy (AgustaWestland is a Finmeccanica company), it is instead using the technology demonstrator for flight tests this week.

Remember, the service is interested in off -the-shelf choppers that can be quickly and affordably modified to serve as a 21st Century aerial scout. However, if the Army decides that none of the helos offered up by industry offer enough bang for the buck, the service says it will simply move to upgrade its existing Kiowa Warriors to keep them flying for years to come.


  • Andy

    What? This is how you create jobs in the USA ???? even defense ???

    • tiger

      1. Best product is the prime goal not Jobs. 2. Both Agusta & Boeing Are based A few miles from each other here in the Philadelphia,PA area. Still America at last check. Bell is in Texas & Sikorsky in Stratford, Connecticut.

  • The AW139 has an empty weight of 4.8 tons (comercial version). That’s nearly triple of an OH-58D (1.7 tons). This is another class of helicopter and I don’t think it’s possible to use such a big bird as a scout help.

    The little bird on the other side is too small. We know that for 40 years.

    The Sikorsky design is in prototype phase and even Sikorsky says it’s at least 13 years away from being a working product.

    So I see only one choice: The armed UH-72.

    I bet the Army will also find that out and therefore it will stay with the Kiowa for the foreseeable future.

    • blight_

      Does the armed scout have to be in the <2 ton weight class? (or the <4.8 ton class, for that matter)

      • Scout helos have to me agile. This is not possible with a 4,8 ton medium transport helo.

        The AW 139 will also be a much bigger target and therefore much easier to shoot down. The turbines have to be also larger. Missiles with Infrared seeker love that.

    • majr0d

      I reject your premise that the little bird is too small. Isn’t small a plus for a scout? Please explain.

      • The little bird can’t handle a lot of weight which isn’t great for a scout helicopter because you have to add a lot of extra electronics that are visible in the picture above as well as armaments. Adding all of that weight to an existing little bird means that it would have to be heavily modified and its range would still be pretty limited.

        The Kiowa is a perfect example of a scout helicopter so it’s going to be hard to beat.

        • majr0d

          The little bird might not be able to handle a lot of weight compared to what? How much load must a scout helo be able to lift?

          Have you looked at the AH6i? The latest version is fully integrated with the Apache Longbow. It can carry 2.75 rockets, hellfires, griffins, miniguns etc.and all the electronics to serve as the forward eyes for the Apache and has better performance (lift, high/hot, speed) than the AH6s in TF160.

          It’s nice to be able to carry more but we have a tendency to add more beyond what is needed which as awesome as the Kiowa is, it is underpowered. This is a scout/light attack platform.

          • Guest

            What does “fully integrated with the Apache Longbow” mean?

          • majr0d

            Its glass cockpit was borrowed from the Apache. It has electro-optic and infrared sight and targeting system providing pilots with day TV, low-light TV, infrared camera, laser range finder, laser pointer and laser designator capability.

            “The target acquisition system allows the pilots to search the battlefield with the sensor, locate targets and relay that information back to the ground commanders or to other aircraft, such as AH-64D Apaches or other scout helicopters. The aircraft has a digital communication system that allows anything from text-messaging to real-time video streaming back to the ground commanders.”

          • FormerDirtDart

            I think the biggest problems the A/MH-6 airframe faces in this selection process is limited range and allowable cargo load. It has only roughly 2/3 of the range, and 5/6 of the ACL of the 58D.
            I really can’t see the Army going with a reduced capability option.

          • majr0d

            Range is a good point. The AH6M has a 3k lb load capability. The AH6i has an even stronger engine. It may exceed the Kiowas ACL? Size and survivability are Little Bird strengths. Cost of the AH6i is $6mil I believe equipped. That’s the cost of the Lokota without the bells and whistles. The UH72 has the best range of all but that’s without the bells and whistles.

            Just have to be careful on the AH6i. Not a lot of info out there and folks are using MD530 stats. I couldn’t find anything on the here UH72 scout configuration and many confuse the OH58 with the OH58D. We’ll see. I look forward to seeing more stats.

          • FormerDirtDart

            You’re going to have to show me where you got the 3K load capacity. Everything I have ever seen has gross load/max take off weight as around 3K, with empty weight in the 1500 lbs range.

          • majr0d

            “Aircraft performance will be similar to the ULB Demonstrator with an additional 1,000 pounds of payload that can be used for increased range, endurance or mission hardware. Total payload for the ULB Demonstrator is greater than 2,400 pounds.”

            I wouldn’t BS you.

          • Guest

            I wonder if it 6K/95 OGE hovers at that max load, or what the proposed load is…

          • ghostwhowalksnz

            OH-58 empty weight 3800lb

            Augusta Mangusta empty weight 5500lb
            The rest of the weight is fuel and payload.

    • FormerDirtDart

      You might want to try reading the article again. The AW139 is not being offered.

  • jamesb

    I’m gonna say Beaver is probably right…..
    The EADS contract was a model of ‘how to get things done’ ….
    Therefore the Army may want the AW139 …but Congress is NOT gonna do it…..Buy American….
    Give the OK for the demo bird that even flying….
    Really ….
    It gets tired…..

    • ghostwhowalksnz

      It will be built in the US , just like the UH72 Latoka is

    • tiger

      We live in a multinational world. There are no “American” companies. They all do business world wide. AgustaWestland’s US HQ is just across town from me.

      • Really? Did you miss the Airforce Tanker contract? Boeing was convicted of bribery , had the infirior product but got the contrect anyway!

  • jamesb

    that ain’t EVEN flying…..

    spend the money….

    Go with what you got….

  • Lance

    With more cuts and sequestration coming I doubt this will go farther than a airshow for army brass.

  • majr0d

    Invariably these stories bring out the BFF helicopter fans. Sometimes the writers don’t help by ignoring or focusing on one solution.You see the same phenomena in the light attack contract.

    The obvious competition between EXISTING airframes should be between the AH6i and the UH72. A factual unemotional comparison would be educational for all.

    • There is too much money involved for an unemotional comparison.

      You should read “The Shadow World” by Andrew Feinstein.

      • majr0d

        Don’t think many posting here are part of the MICCC (Military Industrial Complex Cabal Conspiracy)

    • FormerDirtDart

      While LockMart/EADS NA offer the UH-72/EC645, I could see Eurocopter offering a MH-65 Dolphin/AS565 Panther variant on their own.

    • majr0d

      I angered the BFF helo crowd. The truth hurts.

  • Nathan

    what about a one-seated Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66, a lot more stealthy and a hell of a lot coller!

    • nathan


    • USSHelm

      And would have a price tag the size of Texas

    • Guest

      …but had the Army stayed with it, would have been halfway through the fielding by now and wouldnt be debating half measures for recon helos.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “…but had the Army stayed with it,….”

        They didn’t. End of story.

        Thomas L. Nielsen

        • Guest

          Are you kidding? Hypotheticals make up the clear majority of the posts on this site.

      • FormerDirtDart

        In a sign of how completely clues you and “Nathan” are.
        The program was a failure.
        The “one man” cockpit concept was rejected early in the program as unachievable.
        The A/C was so grossly overloaded that there was serious doubt on whether it could actually hover, or even get off the ground under its full combat loading.

        • blight_

          “Boeing-Sikorsky MANPRINT study (1985). The original concept of the LHX program was to produce a one-man helicopter that could do more than a two-man aircraft. The Sikorsky (S-76) Helicopter Advance Demonstrator of Operators Workload (SHADOW) had a single-pilot advanced cockpit grafted to its nose. The purpose was to study the MANPRINT or human engineering interface between the pilot and the cockpit controls and displays. The cockpit was the prototype of a single-pilot cockpit designed for use on the prototype RAH-66 Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter. The cockpit was designed so sensors would feed data to the pilot through helmet mounted displays. The MANPRINT study determined that single-pilot operation of the Comanche was unsafe, and would result in pilot overload. As result of this study, the Comanche was designed to be operated by a crew of two.”

  • Thomas

    Do NOT go near the AW139. It is a civilian heli. We operate them in a military capacity as a taxi with a token armed effort and its just about capable of that

    • ghostwhowalksnz

      the OH58 was a civilian helo – jetranger long before the military bought it

      • Riceball

        Wasn’t that the case with the OH-6 as well?

    • tiger

      Sigh…… Thumb down.

  • Michael in SoCal

    Anyone know why the MD600 NOTAR deisign is not being offered / considered? Take the Little Bird upgrades (connectivity with the Apache) and put it in the bigger MD600. Is it something about the NOTAR design that the Army doesn’t like?

    • FormerDirtDart

      You would probably have to ask MD Helicopters if they plan on offering it.

      • Pilot 2

        Check the power margin. Too under powered, the no tail rotor is a great concept and works well for civilian/police operations but for the the military would need it just doesn’t fit, when you need it most. If they could improve it maybe

  • Pat

    Do we even need a helo that does what the Kiowa does?

    • blight_

      Are you going to swear that helicopters don’t need lots of sensors (which is the ISR component of what “the Kiowa does”), and that they only need to carry guns and missiles?

      Or are you going to say we don’t need sensors on helicopters, we can use drones?

      • Pat

        Thank you, that’s why I ask!

    • Guest

      The KW flies around, finds enemy, and kills it. Seems pretty useful to me.

    • tiger

      I would submit the better question is do we need a “manned” Helo for the mission? This seems a job the improved FireScout should be doing.

      • majr0d

        No, advantages of the light attack helo over drones…

        -Guns and all their advantages (if you aren’t familiar less collatoral damage, suppressive/pinning capability vs. missiles/bombs, cheap)
        -Interacting with a human pilot is more responsive than a drone especially when he can land and talk with the ground commander
        -Higher sortie rate.

      • Jer

        You are obvisly not in the Armed Forces! And if you are you don’t leave the FOB with the way you talk about unmaned VS. Maned. Many times I have stopped a Bomb being dropped on a group of people because the were near a known IED site. Maned or unmaned FIX wing cant really tell too much difference between kids and men. Eyes on is the way to go. The real question is how much money should you waist if you were in charge. KW’s are cheap compaied to APACHE’s, I think we should have more KW’s actually. I am not saying get rid of the 64’s, I do like them backing me up too! But every one always talks Shit about KW’s, talk to the ground forces that we support, see if they want a UAV or a OH/AH team on station. As far as a Unmaned Helo, the operator would not know if its being shot at, no need for a Unmaned helo to support the ground guys if the cant see and hear everything. It would just get in the way.

    • majr0d

      Pat, yes we need a scout/light attack helo.

      Apaches can’t be everywhere and they are comparatively expensive. It often makes sense to detail a LAH for a security mission where an Apache might be overkill.

      Scout helos provide commanders with an extra set of eyes and a spotter for Apaches

      • Guest

        Pat, yes we need an armed UAS.

        Apaches can’t be everywhere and they are comparatively expensive. It often makes sense to detail a UAS for a security mission where an Apache might be overkill.

        UAS provides commanders with an extra set of eyes and a spotter for Apaches.

  • Guest

    Like the last paragraph says, look for a KW upgrade. There just isnt enough value in standingup an entirely new program.

    • ghostwhowalksnz

      Tried that , but the KW upgrade was cancelled because too expensive …late etc

      • Lance

        This is a WASTE of money, the Army may get none no upgrade or AAS because of this waste in money.

      • Guest

        If you are referring to ARH, that was not a KW upgrade, but instead a new start program.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          In this case same thing:
          “Bell Helicopter proposed an update of the OH-58D concept in a militarized version of the Bell 407, using a more powerful Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engine,[8] an all-composite main rotor based on the Bell 430’s rotor, and the Bell 427 tail assembly.
          Bell’s ARH demonstrator, a modified Bell 407 (s/n 53343/N91796 [12] ), first flew on 3 June 2005. Wikipedia

          Bell 407 was civilian version of the Longranger with an OH58 rotors and hub

          • Guest

            If you can refer to where it said that KW’s were going back to the factory to be remanned into ARH, I will call it the same thing. Otherwise, ARH was proposed as a new start, not a KW upgrade.

  • Brian Black

    Why would AW offer the 169 and not the already militarised and marinised AW159?

    • Madeleine

      Because the 169 is Italian (Agusta) and the 159 is British (Westland) and the Italians run the company… The 159 is a purpose-built military helicopter and would in fact be potentially very suitable for this role. The British Army intends using them with sensors as Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopters( BRH).

  • John D

    Cut back the forces, cut budgets and now you want to replace a VietNam era bird?? Maybe th eM113 series is next?? You can’t fix stupid, just promote them to Generals!

  • Musson

    Keep it small, fast and manuverable. Scout Choppers need to shoot and scoot and be hard to hit. Let big brother make the craters.

    There is a reason why the book is not titled, ‘Little Bird Down’.

  • JC_AZ

    The ‘Little Bird” is really the only choice for the type of operations this is being considered…the upgrade is pretty much the Ferrari of this aircraft type and the teams that use it now prefer it…

    • blight_

      The Little Bird is used for other things than carrying the ISR gear that the Jetranger does (in the form of the Kiowa Warrior).

      • majr0d

        I think JC_AZ is using “Little Bird” to refer to the AH-6i. It carries PLENTY of ISR gear giving it the same recon abilities as the AH64 which is equivalent to the OH58D.

        A lot of folks are unfamiliar with the latest AH6 version.

        • blight_

          Going to have to sit and digest it, but the most obvious difference is the loss of the MMS for a different mounting. Is it important to have the MMS where it is, or was it just put there for other reasons?

          • majr0d

            Kept it out of the crew area which is small anyway. Added advantage of ease of maintenance.

            You’re talking about a 6′ difference. The bird is incredibly small/quiet. It’s going to be VERY hard to pick up peeking over a ridge or treeline.

        • Guest

          Just wanted to point out that the AH64D Block 3 carries Level 4 UAS control and Fire Control Radar. Clearly this is additional ISR equipment capability over these smaller helos.

  • Mark

    Please, not the Lakota.

  • tiger

    Under current Non budgets, this may be another pipe dream program like the Marine One replacement & Amphbious IFV programs. With Obama’s win today in the Courts, the focus is still on “butter over guns.”

  • citanon

    Reading the army statements more carefully, the article misinterprets the Army’s intentions.

    The Army is studying off the shelf helicopters for the up coming AAS competition.

    This is an initial analysis of alternatives to decide whether the Army should:

    1. Upgrade Kiowa
    2. Hold a new competition.

    With the new competition all manners of helicopters, off the shelf and not off the shelf, will come into play, including the S-97 raider.

    Thus, it’s not clear exactly what the Army is looking for this round.

    1. It might want to keep Kiowa and use this demo as justification for upgrades.
    2. It might want to make the argument that NO existing off the shelf solutions or Kiowa is sufficient. Hence favoring newer technology programs in the real AAS competition.
    3. It might honestly have no idea what it wants yet and is using this to determine competition requirements and boundary conditions for the AAS.
    4. Most likely different parts of the army want some version of the above and this will give them more time and data to reach a decision.

  • blight_

    Got some bad helicopter related news for everyone.

    Apparently United Technologies & Pratt & Whitney sold us downriver?

    Perhaps we should can their JSF engine as retribution.

  • John

    This is the military looking to waste more money. First, we already developed something like this and then threw away the $30 billion in development costs. It was called the RAH-66.

    The US already has this ability and has been using it for 10 years. It’s called the Predator.

  • Jer

    I don’t know why the big fuss! The problem is the Army SELLS the Apache and puts all its money into a beast that is down/broken more often then not! The Army should keep the Kiowa as is, just spend the amount of two AH-64D upgrades to buy a new lot of KW’s. Its crazy the difference what the Army spends on the Apache compaired to the KW! The Apache does its job well! BLOWS shit up! KW does its job, finds shit so the AH can BLOW it up!

  • Guest

    Back at ya. Care to cite your opinion with any evidence whatsoever?

  • Bob