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The OH-58’s Last Hurrah?

At first glance, the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior doesn’t look like much. Yet this helicopter has proven themselves in combat in four major wars. In fact, it has managed to outlast three attempts to replace it.

First flown in 1969, the OH-58 followed a civilian version, the Bell 206A, into service. The chopper first saw action in Vietnam, where they carried out battle damage assessment missions. At least two choppers were lost. The chopper served alongside the OH-6 Cayuse, which later became known as the MH-6 and AH-6 “Little Bird,” serving with distinction with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Nightstalkers.

In 1983, an improved version, the OH-58D, entered service. This chopper added a mast-mounted sight to help provide target designation for AGM-114 Hellfire missiles fired by the AH-64 Apache helicopter, which was entering service in significant numbers during the 1980s. However, in 1988, the OH-58 would gain something else: Firepower.

During the late 1980s, the Iran-Iraq War was raging, and all too often, neutral shipping was being hit by both sides in the war. The Nightstalkers initially handled some aspects of Operations Prime Chance and Earnest Will, when the United States Navy escorted tankers through the Persian Gulf. The armed OH-58s worked so well, that the Army made the decision to arm all of the OH-58Ds.

Since those Persian Gulf Operations, the OH-58s have seen action in Panama, Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The OH-58Ds will eventually be upgraded to the OH-58F standard. These helicopters will be flying until at least 2025 - if not beyond.