Croatia and Tunisia are the first nations to receive OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopters retired by the U.S. Army. Tunisia, announced most recently as a recipient, will use the helicopters to battle Islamic extremists, according to the Department of Defense.
The Army is divesting approximately 340 single-engine Bell OH-58Ds over three years as a consequence of its 2013 Aviation Restructure Initiative, which shifted responsibility for the armed reconnaissance mission to AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopters in combination with unmanned aircraft. The Kiowas are being made available through the Excess Defense Articles and foreign military sales (FMS) programs, and multiple nations have expressed interest in the aircraft, according to the service.
Croatia became the first nation to acquire excess Kiowas when its defense ministry signed a letter of offer and acceptance for 16 helicopters in mid-February. “This first OH-58D FMS case represents a significant amount of hard work and research on the part of many organizations, including the Non-Standard Rotary Wing Project Office, the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office and the AMCOM [Aviation and Missile Command] Security Assistance Management Directorate,” the Army said.
“While this first case is in a basic U.S. government configuration aircraft, many countries are expressing interest in fielding upgraded versions of the aircraft,” the service added.
In early May, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the possible FMS to Tunisia of Kiowa Warrior equipment, training and support, including 10 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles and 82 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rounds, in a transaction valued at $100 million. Under a separate notification, Tunisia was approved to receive 24 OH-58Ds through the Excess Defense Articles program. That use case “is approved and set for execution,” the Army said in response to an AIN inquiry.
The helicopters “will improve Tunisia’s capability to conduct border security and combat operations against terrorists, including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Libya, and Ansar al-Sharia, Tunisia,” the DSCA notice stated.
The OH-58Ds are being sent to both Croatia and Tunisia from the Army’s 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C. In April, the 1-17th conducted a final flyover of Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, N.C., with all 32 of its Kiowa Warriors.