Bell OH58 Kiowa/H57 Jet Ranger

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ARMY OH-58D Kiowa Warriors.

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The Kiowa is based upon a very successful civilian design. It served well in Vietnam, continues to operate as an armed scout, and also functions as a Navy trainer.

In 1963 the Army announced a competition for a light observation helicopter (LOH); the Hughes OH6 Cayuse won out the following year. However, the rather ugly Bell entry, the Model 206, was completely overhauled and given a streamlined fuselage, and in 1968 it entered the commercial field as the beautiful Jet Ranger. It was instantly successful, and more than 5,000 were sold worldwide. That same year the Army took a second look and decided it needed a fast machine with greater range and payload than the OH6. Consequently, an order went out for 2,200 Jet Rangers, which in 1969 entered service as the OH58 Kiowa. In Vietnam Kiowas served as scout ships and frequently worked as spotters for the Bell AH1 Cobra gunships. After the war the Army continued refining the basic Kiowa design, with the latest being the OH58D. This is a heavily armed craft and sports a four-bladed rotor rather than the two-bladed rotor used on earlier models. Furthermore, a distinct, mast-mounted infrared laser sight endows the helicopter with night-fighting capability. It is also equipped with laser-guided Hellfire antitank missiles and has unofficially been dubbed the Kiowa Warrior.

In 1968 the Navy also expressed interest in the Jet Ranger, purchasing 40 to serve as the TH57. This was the first turbine-powered helicopter trainer in the world and differed from civilian versions by having tandem controls, naval avionics, and a longer boom and skids. TH57s are used to impart the rudiments of vertical flight, basic instrument techniques, and night flying to fledgling helicopter pilots. Both versions—the Kiowa and the Jet Ranger—will be operational well into the 21st century.

Type: Reconnaissance; Training Helicopter

Dimensions: rotor span, 35 feet; length, 42 feet, 2 inches; height, 12 feet, 9 inches

Weight: empty, 2,825 pounds; gross, 4,500 pounds

Power plant: 1 × 750–horsepower Allison T703 turboshaft engine

Performance: maximum speed, 149 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,200 feet; maximum range, 345 miles

Armament: up to 2 × 7.62mm machine guns or 6 × Hellfire antitank missiles

Service dates: 1969–

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