Army helicopters being built in Huntsville
The top leadership from the Program Executive Office for Aviation, along with project officers for the Project Office for Armed Scout Helicopter's Kiowa Warrior Product Office, announced Feb. 28 that three OH-58F Kiowa Warriors will be built at an Army facility in the Huntsville area.
Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, the program executive officer for aviation, and Lt. Col. Matthew Hannah, project manager for the Kiowa Warrior, presented the first airframe to be transformed into a new model at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Prototype Integration Facility at the Madison County Executive Airport.
"Most of the aircraft in the portfolio of Army aviation are upgrades or a remanufacture of old systems," Crosby said. "Our country's in an austere budget environment," he added, emphasizing the fiscal reasons behind the OH-58F upgrade program officially known as the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program. Efforts to replace the Kiowa proved to be too costly, he said, adding that the decision was made to sustain the current platform.
The OH-58D on display in the AMRDEC PIF, representing the first vehicle to undergo the transformation process, had been stripped bare of its interior components and exterior accessories, reducing the helicopter to a literal shell of its former self.
The "de-population" of the vehicle is just the start of its journey. At the other end of the production line, the D model will have evolved into a state of the art F model.
The simplicity of the barren airframe belied the important role it has played in support of the war fighter in overseas contingency operations. The Kiowa Warrior has been heavily utilized and relied upon to support the troops on the ground and routinely maintains the highest operational tempo of any Army aviation asset in theater.
Developed in the 1980s and introduced in the 1990s, the OH-58D is beginning to show its age. Its dramatic overhaul will provide not only a much needed life extension for the Kiowa Warrior, but a positive economic impact on the Huntsville community.
Upgrades to the new Kiowa Warrior OH-58F will include a nose-mounted Common Sensor Payload, a Dual Channel Full Authority Digital Engine Controller, an upgraded Control and Display Subsystem with three all-color displays, integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment displays, a Digital Intercommunication System, an Emergency Standby Instrument System and improved side/transverse beam assemblies.
The airframe will also receive a new wiring harness designed and built by team members of the AMRDEC PIF.
"The first three conversions will all happen here at the Meridianville PIF facility and the next three will happen at Corpus Christi Army Depot," Hannah said. He said the decision as to where to produce further OH-58Fs will be made at a future date.
The building of the OH-58F is the first time that the Army has built aircraft as the lead systems integrator, meaning that the Army is in charge of managing all of the activities necessary to integrate and build the aircraft. By managing the project internally through the Armed Scout Helicopters Project Office, a significant cost savings, estimated to be approximately $37 million, will be realized during the research, development, test and evaluation phase. An additional $55 million is estimated to be saved during the procurement/production phase of the project.
The Kiowa Warrior CASUP is designed to extend the operational service life of the helicopter through fiscal 2025.
Approximately 27 local government organizations and contractors are involved in the upgrade program.
Article by Mr Randy Tisor (PEO Aviation)