FVL Program Stalls as OH-58 is retired.
I'm sure we were all pretty livid when the US Army announced that the OH-58D Kiowa fleet was not going to be upgraded/replaced with the OH-58F Block II (as originally planned) but in fact the entire fleet of dedicated reconnaissance rotor-winged aircraft will be retired. And now that we're here in August 2016, the question to be asked is "Where do we go from here?"
Well, apparently we're not going anywhere, at least not in the AAS (Armed Arial Scout) category of helicopter. That's correct, ladies and gentlemen, the US Army will be without an AAS until the 2030s when the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) line of aircraft enter development. Notice that I said development, not service. So, not only will the OH-58 Kiowa (and our only AAS) not have a viable replacement for the remainder of the decade; but it's not likely to have one for another fifteen years. And fifteen years is being very generous. I'd like to point out that the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program began in 1981 and that resulted in the V-22 Osprey; which did not enter service until 2007.
So, why is this important?
Well, let's start with the mission and capabilities of the OH-58 Kiowa:
Crew: 2 pilots
Length: 42 ft 2 in (12.85 m)
Main rotor diameter: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
Height: 12 ft 10 in (3.93 m)
Main rotor area: 14.83 ft2 (1.38 m2)
Empty weight: 3,829 lb (1,737 kg)
Gross weight: 5,500 lb (2,495 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce T703-AD-700A or 250-C30R3 turboshaft, 650 hp (485 kW) each
Maximum speed: 149 mph (240 km/h)
Cruise speed: 127 mph (204 km/h)
Range: 161 miles (556 km)
Endurance: 2.0 hours
Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,575 m)
Each pylon (two total) can carry one of the following:
1x M3P (or M296) .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun
1x LAU-68 rocket launcher w/ seven 2.75" Hydra 70 rockets
2x AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
So we're talking about an aircraft that can fly in-between buildings, laze targets for Apaches with its Mast-Mounted Sight (MMS), while defending itself with its M2 Brownings (the OH-58F would have been able to carry the GAU-19 tri-barreled .50 Cal). Or, totally ignoring its recon role, it can kill tanks and bust bunkers with four AGM-114s.
So, to make a long story short, the OH-58 Kiowa is being retired without a viable replacement for the next fifteen plus years.
No big deal... Wait... Russian tanks positioning themselves to make another push into western Ukrain? Oops...
: Kremlin deploys more tanks to eastern Ukraine
Thank you for your time, have an excellent day.
Keep Up The Fire
"Mortis Prius Infamia"