The Army delivered the first OH-58D Kiowa Warrior upgraded under the Wartime Replacement Aircraft Program to the war fighter at a roll-out ceremony at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas, June 7.
Col. Christopher B. Carlile, commander of Corpus Christi Army Depot, or CCAD, handed over the aircraft’s log books to Lt. Col Paul A. Cravey, squadron commander for 1-6 Air Cavalry Squadron, from Fort Riley, Kan., during a ceremony in Hangar 44.
The Wartime Replacement Aircraft, or WRA, Program is the Army’s initiative to replace OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, the primary air cavalry helicopter. The Army is aggressively pursuing ways to sustain the fleet and is looking to its industrial base and the entire Aviation Enterprise to support ongoing fleet upgrades that address obsolescence, improve reliability, increase capability and put OH-58Ds back in the fight.
The Army is approved for a complete fleet of 368 of OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. Since production of the KW ended in 1999, increasing the number of 58Ds to the soldier is crucial at a time when cost-effective measures are critical. The Army recognizes the cost-saving opportunities from investing in its depots and their partnerships.
The WRA Program is a joint effort with CCAD, the Armed Scout Helicopter, or ASH, Project Office, the Aviation Field Maintenance Directorate, known as AFMD, and Bell Helicopter providing the Army a cost-effective and efficient way to replenish lost aircraft. This aircraft, completed seven weeks ahead of schedule, represents the first KW to be produced as part of that joint venture and is the first one to increase Army fleet density in over a decade.
“This is a significant milestone for our Army as we deliver the first Kiowa Warrior that replenishes the fleet under the Wartime Replacement Program,” said Lt. Col. Matt Hannah, product manager for Kiowa Warrior helicopters. “This is the beginning of a bright future for our scout pilots and Army aviation. I am extremely proud of this team.”
While fleet attrition continues to be a serious problem with an average of six lost per year, the Kiowa Warrior has logged more than 800,000 combat hours between Iraq and Afghanistan where it battles sand, snow and high altitudes. These war birds are life-saving assets for troops on the ground. The Army will rely on the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior as the primary air cavalry helicopter at least until 2025.
The Army is replacing wartime losses suffered by the OH-58D fleet by taking “A” model cabins and upgrading them to “D” model cabins and capabilities. This is done through an element of the WRA program called the”A2D” conversion program.
This A2D wartime replacement cabin was inducted at Bell Helicopter, Amarillo, Texas,-facility for conversion in December 2010 and completed in December 2011. The cabin was then delivered to CCAD in January 2012 where CCAD completed final assembly operations and flight test.
The success of the WRA program process was proven with the completion of an earlier Kiowa Warrior aircraft in December 2011. Because it did not increase the Kiowa Warrior fleet density, that aircraft was not classified as a WRA, but it was restored to service and served as the pilot for all future WRA production aircraft.