Reinforcements are on the way for the Army’s beleaguered scout helicopter units, thanks to a partnership between the Army and Bell Helicopter.
On Thursday, the Army delivered the first totally rebuilt OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter to the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment at the Corpus Christi Army Depot.
The helicopter is one of about 50 that the Army and Fort Worth-based Bell are slated to produce over the next five years to replace OH-58s taken out of service because of combat or accidents.
With no purchases of new scout helicopters likely for years, the Army has long been maintaining and upgrading the heavily used OH-58 fleet and can now fill the holes with rebuilt aircraft.
It’s pretty damn sad that the Army is having to pull Vietnam era OH-58A’s out of storage and rebuild them to “D-Kiowa Warrior” configuration. No, I’m not arguing for new-build D models. And I have some hope the upcoming “F” model will sustain life in the scout helicopter community. But the “F” is a rebuild of existing “D” models as well. Which were rebuilds of “A” and “C” models. The scouts are getting a touch old.
We’ve been bustin’ on the other services for their inability to manage procurement programs for years now. LCS and F-35 come to mind.
But the Army has issues of its own. The Future Combat Systems debacle was the big example. But the replacement program for the OH-58 was supposed to be the ARH-70, and it should have been generally a low risk program. Take the existing Bell 407 airframe, itself an evolution of the Bell 206 that gave us the Kiowa, and add sensors and weapons. Easy peasy. How that program fell to pieces is beyond me. I’m not an engineer or an aviator. I know there are always challenges, but the collapse of that program was a big surprise to me.
Maybe Outlaw will show up and school me. Please?