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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt
Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt
By Valerie Insinna

Big changes could be on the way for the Army’s aviation brigades, including the divestment of several aircraft such as the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, said the service’s top aviator. 

Army officials are discussing an aviation strategy that would use AH-64 Apaches, teamed with Shadow and Gray Eagle unmanned aerial systems, to conduct the scouting missions currently flown by the Kiowa, said Maj. Gen. Kevin Mangum, commanding general of the Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker. 

"You can imagine the love notes I've gotten over that, [but] scouting is a mission, not a platform,” he said at a Jan. 14 speech.

Under this plan, the service would also divest the TH-67 training aircraft and use UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopters. An estimated 898 OH-58 A/C, OH-58 D and TH-67 aircraft would be mothballed.

In order to have enough aircraft to fill requirements, the Army would move all reserve Apache aircraft into the active force, he said at an Association of the United States Army conference. In return, reserve components would gain 159 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for lift and medical evacuation.

Officials acknowledged that aspects of the strategy are likely to be unpalatable to certain parts of the Army aviation community, but such measures were necessary to protect aircraft modernization programs, they said.

“We ought to be shot if we … cut up one modernized platform,” said Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, the outgoing program executive officer for aviation. “There are going to be folks that are going to criticize [us] for what we recommended. I got it. … We worry about that soldier having something they need, that they can sustain, maintain and rely on in combat, and that’s the process we looked at.”

At this point, the service is not considering any changes to the Apache program, such as the purchase of additional aircraft or the acceleration of E-model aircraft procurement, Mangum said. 

Apaches cost more and burn more gas than Kiowa Warriors, Mangum said, but "we don't have the money today to do anything differently. It's going to cost us more money in the long run if we keep the old stuff at this point, because we're going to be throwing money at platforms that really will not be economical to keep in the force."

For the past couple years, the Army has been searching high and low for a solution on how best to accomplish airborne reconnaissance missions.

Bell Helicopter, which manufactures the OH-58, touted continued upgrades and life extensions as the most cost-effective way to fulfill the scout helicopter requirement.  

Another option was to buy a brand new aircraft through the armed aerial scout program. Boeing, AgustaWestland, Bell and EADS North America, which has been rebranded as Airbus, flew aircraft during a 2012 demonstration to the Army. Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider has also been floated as a possible Kiowa replacement, but it is not scheduled to fly until this year. 

Army leaders in 2012 believed procuring new aircraft was the best choice, Mangum said. 

“What a difference a year makes,” 
Mangum said. After sequestration and continued fiscal constraints in 2013, officials realized that both options were too expensive.

A new armed aerial scout helicopter could cost upwards of $16 billion, Mangum said. A cockpit and sensor upgrade program and service life extension for the Kiowa would cost $3 billion and $7 billion respectively. 

"Not a good value proposition. Really it was going to be putting new shoes on an old horse for $10 billion. Oh, by the way, we don't have that $10 billion,” he said.

The Army will be able to meet 80 percent of its armed aerial scout requirements using existing Apaches and UAS, Mangum said. The current Kiowa fleet can only accomplish 20 percent of armed aerial scout missions, while an upgraded OH-58 would be able to accomplish 50 percent, he said. 

The Kiowa Warrior’s cockpit and sensor upgrade program is already under way, but if Army leaders sign off on the strategy, all work on the initiative would come to a halt, Mangum said. 

A requirement for an armed aerial scout helicopter would stay on the books, he said. Whether that gets filled will depend on what aircraft is available when the Army has money to purchase new aircraft. Increased speed, range and payload, as well as the ability to fly 6,000 high at 95-degree temperatures, would continue to be AAS requirements.

Crosby said he didn’t know whether the Army would revisit the armed aerial scout competition at a later date. Even if it doesn't reopen the competition, the service will eventually procure a new scout helicopter as part of the future vertical lift program, a family of rotorcraft that will replace current systems. 

In order to fill UH-72 requirements at Fort Rucker, aircraft from the active and reserve components — including about half of the National Guard’s fleet — will be moved. 

Mangum said the UH-72 would be a good fit for pilots training to fly the Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters that will be a staple of the fleet for the next decade. 

"The fact that it's a glass cockpit, a digital cockpit, a dual engine aircraft will help our youngsters transition more readily to those modernized platforms, the AH-64E, the UH-60M and the CH-47F,” he said.

Photo Credit: Defense Dept.


Re: Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt

Hmm.  I'm curious as how the Active Army plans to field 10 ARBs worth of AH-64 pilots in 2 years.  And equip those "new" pilots with experience.

"...scouting is a mission, not a platform,” he said at a Jan. 14 speech.

Yep.  But you still need a platform, and you still need the pilots. 

Maybe an all-UAS fleet would be the best answer for the scout role.  Unless it's not about the mission after all...
RWilliams at 1/14/2014 5:01 PM

Re: Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt

It's not about the mission or the soldier, it's about bias, jealousy and of course money, the KW has been targeted for removal over and over again, first through replacement with the Comanche, then replacement with the ARH (both cancelled projects), now through budget.

The Army aviation community has touted the success of the KW every time they saw a chance to claim success for themselves in combat but in the background has fomented a branch wide bias that the KW is only an interim aircraft that is less capable than other airframes and therefore needs to go away.  KW's history of  maintaining higher flying operational tempo at less cost while other platforms flew less and cost more created competition among commanders of aviation units, not always the good-natured competition. These commanders are now in position to influence the outcome of this decision.

Ask a non aviation ground commander that served in Iraq or Afghanistan what he felt about his KW support while in the fight. You'll get an earful and then some from the commanders who know that they brought soldiers home to family and friends because KW's were always there.  It seems odd that these ground force commanders aren't being asked now whether or not they agree with this plan.

And finally, the money.  All of the aircraft in the inventory can expect a budget cut to impact them due to the current government sequestration and economy.  But the plan as proposed would seem to protect all of the other airframe budgets from serious cuts by simply placing the KW on the sacrificial alter of Congress.

As an example the AH-64E is driving forward with it $50 million cost as no issue, do we need an "E" model at a time when our commitment to armed conflict is drawing down?  Is there something about the AH-64D that has failed and needs to be fixed? If it has failed at it's attack role what would make it more capable of accomplishing the KW reconnaissance role that it has never been able to accomplish before? You could buy 5 KW's for the price of one Apache these days.  Makes you question which program is throwing good money after bad.

"...scouting is a mission, not a platform,”

Scouting is the mission and the man, he requires the proper tools or platform to succeed

As an analogy;
carpentry is a skill, not a task
do you want a plumber to build your house with his plumbers tools?
In the end, the man and the tools matter a great deal!
RetiredAviator at 1/15/2014 11:32 AM

Re: Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt

Please follow the link below and follow the prompts to email your Senator, Congressman/woman, and the President directly.
A Jones at 1/16/2014 1:47 AM

Re: Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt

Throwing the baby out with the bath water?  Ditching the TH-67?

The TH-67 is the most cost effective turbine helicopter that the Army has.  Besides there are already paid for, operating at the school house with 1000's in operation all over the world and operated by the Navy for flight training (TH-57). 

Will the twin turbine engined UH-72 Lakota be that more economical to fly?  Doubt it.  Is is GI proof?  NO.  What a waste of my tax dollars!

I think back to all those Aviation Branch Commissioned Officers that our Army from 1995-2013 sent to 1-1.5 years of flight school to only fly operationally for only maybe, I mean maybe, 1-1.5 years down range and at the units. 

Most of those Commissioned officers went straight to BN-BDE-DIV staff, Powerpoint city, non flying assignments and Battle Captain!  Few of them every acquired enough flight time or experience to make Pilot in Command (PC).  The aviation inexperienced pilots leading the inexperienced.

What a waste of my tax dollars!
rotorhd at 1/21/2014 7:43 AM

Re: Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt

I have read every reason that was given for this decision.  None of them add up, this does not solve or help any cost issue, it only makes it much worse.  Usually when you have a workhorse, that workhorse gets more attention from you, not less.  In my opinion this is more politics than it is common sense.  This kind of logic only works in the government, it would never work in the private sector.  I am and always will be proud that I was part of the legacy of this aircraft.
Aaron at 3/7/2014 5:43 PM

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