U.S. Army aviation leaders grounded the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter fleet at Fort Rucker on Oct. 18 because of problems with a newly installed engine component found only on Kiowas at the Alabama base.
All other Kiowas in the Army's fleet to include those flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to fly, said Kelly Pate, an Army aviation spokeswoman. The Army armed reconnaissance helicopter has flown more than 750,000 combat hours.
Concerned about the performance of the engine upgrade, Army engineers took out the new component and are working to reinstall the original one, said Army aviation spokeswoman Lisa Eichorn.
Rolls-Royce builds the engines inside the Kiowa. A Rolls-Royce representative said the company was aware of the problem and would not be commenting at this time.
Fort Rucker officials expect a quick reinstallation and the Kiowa to return to flight status soon, according to an Army release. The new engine part didn't cause any damage to the aircraft and no soldiers were injured before the decision to ground the fleet. Officials called it a "pro-active decision."
Army helicopter pilots learn to fly the Kiowa at Fort Rucker. The short grounding is "not expected to heavily impact the training of those students going into the Kiowa Warrior course," according to the Army release.
The Kiowa, built by Bell Helicopter, first entered service in 1969, although, the delta model didn't reach the fleet until 1991. Service aviation officials are working to replace the Kiowa.
Maj. Gen. William Crosby, Army aviation's program executive officer, announced in September the Army will fly a Kiowa replacement demonstration. Crosby said he wanted to see the defense industry's offerings in the air instead of examining the competition on Power Point slides.
Crosby's challenge came after the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $17 million be withheld from the Army's budget request for the Kiowa Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program. Committee said the upgrades cost nearly as much as a new aircraft.