The Bell OH-58 Kiowa is a family of single-engine, single-rotor, military helicopters used for observation, utility, and direct fire support.Bell Helicopter manufactured the OH-58 for the United States Army based on its Model 206A JetRanger helicopter. The OH-58 has been in continuous use by the U.S. Army since 1969.
The latest model, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, is primarily operated in an armed reconnaissance role in support of ground troops. The OH-58 has been exported to Austria, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. It has also been produced under license in Australia.
|National origin||United States|
|First flight||Bell 206A: 10 January 1966
OH-58D: 6 October 1983
OH-58F: 26 April 2013
|Primary users||United States Army
Republic of China Army
Royal Saudi Land Forces
|Unit cost||OH-58D: US$4.9 million (1990)
OH-58D KW: US$6.7 million (1990)
KW retrofit: US$1.3 million (1990)
|Developed from||Bell 206|
The OH-58D introduced the most distinctive feature of the Kiowa family — the Mast Mounted Sight (MMS), which resembles a beach ball perched above the rotor system. The MMS by Ball Aerospace & Technologies has a gyro-stabilized platform containing a TeleVision System (TVS), a Thermal Imaging System (TIS), and a Laser Range Finder/Designator (LRF/D). These new features gave the aircraft the additional mission capability of target acquisition and laser designation in both day or night, and in limited-visibility and adverse weather.
The Mast Mounted Sight system was actually developed by the McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Huntington Beach, CA. Production took place primarily at facilities in Monrovia, CA. As a result of a merger with Boeing, and a later sale of the business unit, the program is currently owned and managed by DRS Technologies, with engineering support based in Cypress, CA, and production support taking place in Melbourne, FL.
One distinctive feature of operational OH-58s are the knife-like extensions above and below the cockpit which is part of the passive Wire Strike Protection System. It can protect 90% of the frontal area of the helicopter from wire strikes that can be encountered at low altitudes by directing wires to the upper or lower blades before they can entangle the rotor blade or landing skids. The OH-58 was the first helicopter to test this system, after which the system was adopted by the US Army for the OH-58 and most of their other helicopters.
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