Bell OH-58 Kiowa Helicopter

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...

Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight Helicopter

In August of 1962, the Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter took its initial flight.  This medium lift aircraft with a tandem rotor was designed as a transport helicopter which could be used in all types of weather, day or night.  The CH-46 Sea Knight was versatile and used for a variety of purposes:   Transport combat troops Transport supplies and equipment Search and rescue missions Support forward refueling and rearming points Assault Aircraft Tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel   Design and Development The birth of the CH-46 began back in 1955, when Vertol started to work on a newly designed helicopter that would incorporate a tandem rotor and two turbo-shaft engines.  Design changes were implemented over the next few years and in 1960, Boeing acquired Vertrol.  In 1961, the US Marine Corps procured the Sea Knight later introducing it into its fleet as the CH-46A.  In November of 1964, the US Navy also took an interest in the aircraft with additional design changes to accommodate their needs.  The Navy designated it the UH-46A.   The Sea Knight was designed with a ramp at the rear for loading and unloading and could be left open for parachute drops or to expand cargo space.  The CH-46 also has a belly sling hook attachment, which allows it to carry external cargo.   Several variants followed over the years increasing overall size, troop and cargo capabilities.   Operational History of the CH-46 Since being introduced, the US Marines have used the Sea Knight (aka: Phrog) both in combat and in peacetime.  In late 1967, the CH-46D variant was introduced in Vietnam...

Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche

Though the program for the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche was cancelled before major production even began, this recon and attack aircraft was still considered advanced due to the incorporated advanced sensors and other newly designed stealth technologies.   Development of the Comanche In the early 1980s, the US Army was seeking a replacement for some of their lighter helicopters, but when the official request for proposal was issued in 1988, the Army was looking instead for a reconnaissance helicopter.  Boeing-Sikorsky received the contract to build prototypes for the Army to evaluate.  The first prototype did not roll off the assembly line until May of 1995 and its maiden flight did not take place until January of 1996 due to structural problems and software issues.   Initial Design The Comanche was designed as a stealth helicopter.  Multiple radar reducing techniques were incorporated to its overall visibility, including an outer coating which was not only faceted, but was coated with a radar-absorbent material and infrared-suppressant paint.  Steps were taken also to reduce the noise of the helicopter.   The RAH-66 was also equipped with (at that time) state of the art navigation and detection systems, intended to permit both night time and bad weather operations. Additional sophisticated equipment was incorporated into the design which would allow the Comanche to locate designated targets for attack helicopters.   Further Development The design on the Comanche underwent additional changes in the year 2000 in an effort to reduce the overall weight of the aircraft by approximately 200 lbs.  (empty weight).   In January of 2002, after 318 flights and more than 387 flight hours, the testing...

Hughes OH-6 Cayuse Helicopter

This light observation helicopter, the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, is often used as on escort and attack missions, as a personnel transport helicopter and also as an observation aircraft.  First introduced in 1965 after its initial flight in February of 1963, the OH-6 is still in active service today.  When in combat, these helicopters were often referred to as ‘Killer Eggs’.  Because the aircraft’s ability to strike undetected in darkness, it’s often referred to by the Army’s Special Forces as ‘Night Stalker’.   Design and Development When the US Army issued its Technical Specifications for a ‘Light Observation Helicopter (LOH)’, twelve different companies submitted proposals.  The requirements mandated the aircraft be flexible enough to fulfill a variety of roles including personnel transport, casualty evacuation, observation and escort and observation.  After narrowing down the competition, Hughes won the contract over Fairchild-Hiller.  Later, it was discovered that Hughes had submitted a bid lower than cost in order to secure the US Army’s order.  He did so hoping additional production orders would eventually result in profit.   In 1968, when Hughes was submitting another build for additional OH-6s, Hiller reported Hughes unethical bid to the US Army.  As a result, the Army opened up the bidding to all previous parties, though Hiller did not participate.  The aircraft were presented in a fly-off and then sealed bids were submitted.  Hughes did not win the contract.   The OH-6s Operational History The OH-6 Cayuse helicopter participated in Vietnam beginning in 1966 with over 100 being built for this mission alone.  Additional variants of the helicopter served in Granada and Panama throughout the 1980s and service...

Top Ten Military Helicopters

Compiling a list of top ten military helicopters is subjective at best.  While this particular list may not be everyone’s top ten, or even fall in an order that is agreeable, most of them in some combination would make just about everyone’s top ten list.  This particular list is not broken down according to the main function of the helicopter, but more of an overall evaluation of the aircraft itself.   10.  H-13 Sioux – Manufactured by Bell, the Sioux was the first to engage in war for the US military and is often said to be the stepping stone for proving the viability of such an aircraft in a combat environment.  Eventually, the H-13 was replaced by the OH-6.  The value of the H-13 Sioux was such that it was used by well over a dozen countries around the world.   9.  MH-6 Little Bird – This MH-6 was a versatile helicopter fulfilling various roles for the military.  They were used for observation and as attack helicopters and transports.  The Little Bird has been involved in a number of conflicts including Iraq.       8.  CH-53 Super Stallion – The Super Stallion was heavily relied on during the Vietnam War.  The backbone of the US Navy’s heavy lift aircraft, this helicopter is often used for mine sweeping.  The Super Stallion is known for flying directly into combat and is still widely used across the world by both the US Navy and the US Marines.   7.  MI-24 Hind – Manufactured by the MIL Moscow Helicopter Plant, the MI-24 Hind is a two seat, gun-ship helicopter often referred...

Sikorsky MH-53 Helicopter

A long range, heavy lift helicopter, the Sikorsky MH-53 Helicopter was developed for search and rescue operations for the US Air Force and used extensively during the Vietnam War.  The MH-53 is an upgraded variant of the CH-53 Sea Stallion.  Production on the MH-53 began in 1967 and continued into 1970.  After its introduction, the helicopters were transitioned for use in Special Operations missions.   Design and Development of the MH-53 The US Air Force originally ordered three variants of the MH-53 – the HH-53B and HH-53C for its search and rescue units and the MH-53J Pave Low variant for Special Operation missions.  Pave Low missions were low-level, long-range missions into denied access areas.  The aircraft was required to fly in undetected during daylight or night time hours and under all types of weather conditions.  Special Operation Forces also used the aircraft to infiltrate, exfiltrate and resupply their men.   Several other variants of the MH-53 emerged throughout its production run and were used extensively throughout military service.  The MH-53J pave Low III variant is one of the most technologically advanced helicopters, as well as the largest and most powerful aircraft in the US Air Force’s inventory.   History of Operations Variants of the MH-53 have been used extensively since its inception.  The MH-53B was used by the USAF Aerospace Rescue and Recover Service for covert combat operations and also to ‘snag’ the reentry capsules of photo-reconnaissance satellites.   In November of 1970, the ‘Super Jolly Green Giant’ made headlines with the unsuccessful attempt to rescue POWs from the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam.  Later variants continued to...