Bell Helicopter has tested two upgraded versions of its OH-58F armed reconnaissance helicopter in order to present the US Army with a path forward, should the service decide to further modernise its venerable Kiowa Warrior fleet.
One demonstrator is powered by a Honeywell-built turboshaft, the other features a Rolls-Royce powerplant, says Bell president and chief executive officer John Garrison.
"We invested in two demonstrators for the army, that gives them a choice, if you will, an upgrade path should they choose to pursue [that] going forward," Garrison says.
There is no indication yet as to whether the army will simply upgrade its Kiowa fleet or proceed with a new Armed Aerial Scout helicopter programme. But Garrison says there will be a debrief on the matter over the next week.
The army, Garrison says, is taking its time to analyse its options before it decides on how to proceed.
Computer modeling shows that Bell's Roll-Royce upgraded Kiowa prototype comes "really close" to meeting the army's requirement to hover out ground effect at a density altitude of 6,000ft (1,830m) at a temperature of 95°F (35°C), says Greg Fedele, Rolls-Royce's senior vice-president for helicopters. But Bell is waiting for warmer weather to verify that the aircraft can really meet the requirement during flight tests, he says.
The demonstrator's M250-C-30-R3 turboshaft engine, modified with Rolls-Royce's value improvement kit, delivered 16%-17% more power than specified without the addition of a dual-channel FADEC or any other advanced technologies, Fedele says. The engine was constructed using "enhanced build techniques", he adds.