The Bell OH-58 Kiowa is a military helicopter used in various roles.  This single-engine, single-rotor Kiowa is capable of observation, utility and direct fire support and has been utilized by the US Army since 1969.  Sometimes referred to as ‘Warrior’, the OH-58 is a long-range day and night target acquisition helicopter with multiple armaments with low infrared and acoustic signatures.  Within ten minutes of being disembarked from a C-130, this Warrior can be armed and ready to fight.

Design and Development 

The original OH-58 prototype design submitted to the US Army was rejected in favor of the Hughes and Fairchild-Hiller OH-6 Cayuse.  Bell went back, however, and began redesigning the aircraft.  Their prototype YOH-4A, which became known as the ‘Ugly Duckling’ not only underwent an aesthetic redesign, the cramped quarters and lack of cargo space were also corrected.  Bell redesigned the fuselage and added 16 additional cubic feet for the much needed cargo space.

In 1967, when Hughes failed to meat production demands for the US Army, they reopened the LOH competition.  Bell was able to successfully underbid Hughes and won the contract.  Their redesign was designated the OH-58A, and eventually named Kiowa in honor of the Native American tribe.

Additional Changes to the OH-58

In 1974, despite failure to receive funding from the government to develop a more advanced Aerial Scout Helicopter, the US Army’s current program survived the next five years.  In 1980, the Army decided to modify existing aircraft frameworks to meet their projected needs.  Upgrades were chosen for the OH-58 over the UH-1 due to its smaller size, which made it less detectable.  Further redesign would require a mast-mounted sight to improve the overall performance in reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition missions – all while remaining out of sight.

Within two years of the OH-58Ds first flight on October 6, 1983, the upgraded aircraft was introduced into service.  By 1988, however, shortcomings in its new design were surfacing and the Army was making plans to discontinue the OH-58D.  Instead, however, in response to the $138 million funding received by Congress to support the Army Helicopter Improvement Program, the Secretary of the Army chose to upgrade the OH-58Ds armament.  This decision was based on experience in the Persian Gulf with armed OH-58D helicopters.

The upgraded aircraft became known as the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and production began in May of 1991.  By January of 1992, Bell had received its first contract for retrofitting and converting all the US Army’s remaining OH-58Ds to the new ‘Warrior’ configuration.

Operation History of the ‘Warrior’

In August of 1969, the first OH-58A Kiowa’s arrived in Vietnam; and within 10 days, the first Kiowa was shot down.  In all, an estimated 45 OH-58As were lost in Vietnam.   The OH-58 was also used as an escort for oil tankers in early 1988 during the Iran-Iraq War.   In 1992, the OH-58A was used by the Army National Guard’s role in the War on Drugs.  Currently this program has been expanded to include support of the US Border patrol activities and to support our homeland defense.  Variants of the OH-58 have been involved in recent operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.





            OH-58A                                               OH-58D Kiowa Warrior

Crew:              2                                                            2
Speed:             138 miles per hour                            149 miles per hour
Range:             299 miles                                            345 miles


OH-58A Armament                                                     OH-58D Armament

1 – M134 7.62mm Minigun (or)                                AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles
1 – M129 40mm Grenade Launcher                         Hydra 70 rockets
M296 (or) M3P .50cal machine gun


The Bell OH-58 Kiowa is still being utilized by the United States Army and operates throughout the world in Australia, Austria, Taiwan, Dominican Republic and Saudi Arabia.