The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior conducts armed reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack and defensive air combat missions in support of combat and contingency operations. It replaces the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters (those that function as scouts in air cavalry troops and light attack companies) and OH-58A and C Kiowas in air cavalry troops.
A single engine, four-bladed helicopter with advanced visionics, navigation, communication, and weapons and cockpit integration systems. The mast-mounted sight (MMS) houses a thermal imaging system, low-light television, laser rangefinder/designator, and an optical boresight system. These systems enable the Kiowa Warrior to operate by day and night and allow target acquisition and engagement at stand-off ranges and in adverse weather conditions.
The Kiowa Warrior's highly accurate navigation system provides precise target location that can be sent digitally to other aircraft or artillery via its advanced digital communications system. Battlefield imagery can be transmitted to provide near-real-time situational awareness to command and control elements. The Laser Designator can provide autonomous designation for the Laser HELLFIRE or remote designation for other laser-guided precision weapons.
The Kiowa Warrior is equipped with two universal quick-change weapons pylons. Each pylon can be armed with two HELLFIRE missiles, seven HYDRA 70 rockets, two air-to-air Stinger missiles, or one .50 caliber fixed forward machine gun. The armament systems combine to provide anti-armor, anti-personnel, and anti-aircraft capabilities at standoff ranges.
The Kiowa Warrior is rapidly deployable by air and can be fully operational within minutes of arrival. Two Kiowa aircraft can be transported in a C-130 aircraft. For air transportation the vertical tail fin pivots, the main rotor blades and the horizontal stabilizer are folded, and the mast mounted site, the IFF antenna and the lower wire cutter are removed. The landing gear can kneel to decrease the height.
Although Kiowa Warrior fielding is complete, the Army is currently installing a series of safety and performance modifications to keep the aircraft safe and mission effective until it is retired.
The mast-mounted sight enables the Kiowa Warrior to fight both day and night, at the maximum range of its weapons systems - and with minimum exposure. The aircraft remains concealed during all but a few seconds of an autonomous engagement, making it considerably more survivable than gunships with nose-mounted sensors.