Bell OH-58 Kiowa Helicopter

The Bell OH-58 Kiowa is a family of single-engine, single-rotor, military helicopters used for observation, utility, and direct fire support. Bell Helicopter manufactured the OH-58 for the United States Army based on the 206A JetRanger helicopter. The OH-58 has been in continuous use by the U.S. Army since 1969.

The latest model, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, is primarily operated in an armed reconnaissance role in support of ground troops. The OH-58 has been exported to Austria, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. It has also been produced under license in Australia.

The OH-58D introduced the most distinctive feature of the Kiowa family — the Mast Mounted Sight (MMS), which resembles a beach ball perched above the rotor system. The MMS by Ball Aerospace & Technologies has a gyro-stabilized platform containing a TeleVision System (TVS), a Thermal Imaging System (TIS), and a Laser Range Finder/Designator (LRF/D). These new features gave the aircraft the additional mission capability of target acquisition and laser designation in both day or night, and in limited-visibility and adverse weather.

One distinctive feature of operational OH-58s are the knife-like extensions above and below the cockpit which is part of the passive Wire Strike Protection System. It can protect 90% of the frontal area of the helicopter from wire strikes that can be encountered at low altitudes by directing wires to the upper or lower blades before they can entangle the rotor blade or landing skids. The OH-58 was the first helicopter to test this system, after which the system was adopted by the US Army for the OH-58 and most of their other helicopters.

The OH-58A Kiowa is a 4-place observation helicopter. The Kiowa has two-place pilot seating, although the controls in the left seat are designed to be removed to carry a passenger up front. During its Vietnam development, it was fitted with the M134 Minigun, a 7.62 mm electrically operated machine gun. A total of 74 OH-58A helicopters were delivered to the Canadian Armed Forces as COH-58A and later redesignated as CH-136 Kiowa helicopters.