Tough and versatile, the Bell OH-58 Kiowa helicopter is one of the oldest aerial vehicles still in service with the U.S. military.
Forty Years of Service
The Bell OH-58 Kiowa is a single engine helicopter that is used for observation, reconnaissance, utility missions, and direct fire support by the U.S. military. Versions of the Kiowa have been in continuous use with the U.S. Army since 1969 – giving the helicopter a distinguished service record that spans more than 40 years. The Kiowa helicopter’s operational history begins in the Vietnam Conflict of the 1960s and continues up until present day conflicts in the Middle East.
The current helicopter model – the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior – is used for armed reconnaissance and to support troops on the ground in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Each helicopter has a crew of two people, can travel at a maximum speed of 150 miles an hour, and is armed with AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Hydra 70 rockets, AIM-92 Stinger missiles, and M296 50 caliber machine guns.
Native American Tribe
As is customary with the U.S. Army, the Kiowa helicopter is named for a Native American tribe. The Kiowa are a tribe of Native Americans that resides in Oklahoma and today counts nearly 12,000 members. The Kiowa helicopter has proved popular because of its versatility and the multiple roles it can perform in combat operations. Several other countries have purchased the Kiowa helicopter for their militaries, including Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia.
Current models of the Kiowa helicopter are outfitted with enhanced transmission and engines, as well as improved navigation systems and more weapons. The compact size and light weight of the Kiowa helicopters has made them vulnerable to attacks. As of 2010, about 35 Kiowa helicopters had been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001. The Kiowa Warrior aircraft has been developed to be more durable and heavily armed than previous versions of the helicopter.