The Bell OH-58D Kiowa was operated by the United States Army up until the 1st Saber Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division retired their last operational Kiowa Warriors in January of 2017. This brought to a close nearly 47 years of military use of Bell’s 206 Jet Ranger series helicopters by the Army. The OH-58D has been replaced by the more expensive and more difficult to replace Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter in the armed reconnaissance and ground support roles and the Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota in the light utility helicopter role. The retirement party for the OH-58D was as impressive as it was poignant.
Bell built 2,200 OH-58 helicopters between 1966 and 1989. Foreign operators of the various OH-58 variants include Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Taiwan, Greece, Tunisia, and Turkey. Supplemented but never replaced by the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse in many roles, the early OH-58 variants were used primarily for the light utility and training roles. It wasn’t until the OH-58D was developed during the early 1980s that the name and the mission became Kiowa Warrior.
Equipped with universal weapons pylons that can carry various combinations of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air Stinger (ATAS) missiles, 7-shot Hydra-70 rocket pods, or an M296 .50 caliber machine gun, the Kiowa Warrior also received an upgraded engine, improved navigation and communication avionics, even airbags in the cockpit to enhance survivability. The diminutive Kiowa Warrior with its mast-mounted sight combining television, thermal imaging, and laser designation systems always led the way from the front- just like a scout should.