The US Army has flown its final sortie for the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter, bringing to an end its three-and-a-half year divestment process for the type.
The final flight took place on 19 September from Felker Army Airfield at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, and came some 40 months after the first Kiowa Warrior was decommissioned as part of the army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) in May 2014.
Having first been introduced into service as the OH-58A during the Vietnam War, the Kiowa served as the US Army’s primary scout and reconnaissance platform for close to 50 years. With the first airframes dating back to the 1960s, the army had been trying to replace the type since the early 1980s. This painful and protracted experience saw four programmes cancelled, in the form of the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the Bell ARH-70 Arapaho, the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS), and most recently the upgraded OH-58F.
On each of these occasions the decision to axe the process was chiefly a financial one, and it was the imposition of sequestration in 2013 that finally sounded the death knell for the army's scout helicopter plans. With the axing of the last of these efforts - the transition to the OH-58F, the army decided instead to fulfil the scout mission through the Manned/Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and a Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter.
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