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 ???

  • David Beaver

    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.

  • 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…..

  • 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.

  • 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

    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

  • 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?

  • 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?

    • 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

      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

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

  • Brian Black

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

  • 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?

        • 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

    LOL! Longbow Apache wins!…