The OH-58 Kiowa is a lightly armored military helicopter employed primarily by the US but which has also been exported to a number of allies including Australia, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. Development began in 1960 as part of the US Army’s Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) program. Over the next four years Bell Helicopter and Hiller Aircraft battled for the lucrative defense contract, with Bell eventually underbidding Hiller for the win. Bell’s 206A design became the OH-58A Kiowa (named in honor of the Native American tribe).
The Kiowa platform received an engine and avionics upgrade in the 1970s to become OH-58A/C (the B variant was exported to Australia). It was upgraded again in the 1980s as part of the Advanced Helicopter Improvement Program (AHIP) which sought to counter the presence of armed gunboats in the Persian Gulf with armed interdiction helicopters—specifically, armed OH-58D Kiowas, known as the Kiowa Warrior. Amazingly, Bell and the DoD were reportedly able to develop the new variant in less than 100 days, though the first Kiowa Warrior wasn’t actually delivered to the Army until 1991. Still, it served as a highly functional replacement for both the older AH-1 Cobra and earlier OH-58 A/Cs.
The OH-58D measures 42 feet long and 12 feet tall with interior space for a pair of pilots. Powered by a single 650 HP Rolls Royce turboshaft engine driving a single 35 foot main rotor, the Kiowa has a top speed of 149 mph and can remain airborne for up to two hours (or 161 miles, whichever comes first).
The OH-58D also incorporated a pair of very unique features: A Mast Mounted Sight (MMS) and its forward Wire Strike Protection System (WSPS). The MMS is that little ball you see sitting atop the rotor in the image above. It’s a gyro-stabilized optics system that includes visual and thermal spectrum cameras and an integrated laser range finder/designator. The WSPS, on the other hand, are those little knife-like protrusions around the upper edge of the cockpit. They’re designed to prevent wire and power line strikes (like what happened to that chopper at the end of Die Hard with a Vengeance). The Kiowa was the first to incorporate the WSPS system but it proved so successful that the Army subsequently adapted it to virtually every helicopter in its fleet.
The Kiowa Warrior, the armed version of the OH-58D, also incorporates a pair of fuselage-mounted weapons pylons which can each hold a Hellfire missile, a 7-round LAU-68 rocket launcher armed with Hydra 70s, and a .50 cal machine gun. Additionally the Warrior has received upgraded comms, better visibility at night and in adverse weather, and an integrated, partially-automated cockpit.
All these systems work together to help the Kiowa Warrior do what it does best: Troop support and forward scouting. Able to get off the ground far faster than the larger (but better armed) Apache, the Kiowa Warrior acted as a rapid response force—flying into active firefights to help soldiers on the ground.1
Our Aircraft’s History:
The Kiowa has been moved outside of the large hangar at this time. During the summer of 2001, the Kiowa underwent a complete repainting, courtesy of Redhorse Aviation. Crew Chief: Brian Miller
MAPS OH-58A Kiowa was built in 1969 (S/N 69-16153). During 1991, our OH-58A served with the U.S. Army in the Gulf War. The Kiowa was donated to MAPS in September 1996 by the United States Army Aviation Systems Command. It last served with the 107th Air Cavalry of the Ohio National Guard stationed at the Akron-Canton Airport. It is currently on static display at the MAPS Air Museum.