The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter was retired in early 2017 — ending four dozen years of service that started in 1969. Over 2,200 of these helicopters were built and they served as scouts. With their retirement, that role has been passed on to the AH-64 Apache.
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Don't get us wrong, the Apache is an awesome helicopter, with excellent sensors that can handle the mission. The "problem" is that the Apache also has a lot of payload, notably the M230 cannon with 1,200 rounds of ammo and the ability to carry 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or four 19-round pods for the Hydra 70mm rockets, or a mix of Hellfires and Hydra rockets.
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as 'Task Force Apocalypse', fires a Hellfire missile. Enemy troops on the receiving end of this missile will be unavailable for comment. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)
Now, let's face it, if the Apache comes across some enemy troops while scouting, such firepower means that the Apache crew will likely be the only ones telling tales of the encounter. But firefights and explosions tend to attract unwanted attention. Or, if you're out of weapons, you need to go back to base and re-arm.
A UH-72 Lakota Helicopter of the National Training Center's Aviation Company provides air superiority cover for the opposition forces engaged with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division's ground forces during an encounter in the Siberian Flats at the National Training Center, June 15, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment)
Ironically, the solution to the "problem" of using the Apache as a scout helicopter may be here, and it's from Airbus in the form of the H145M. Think of the H145M as a more potent version of the EC145 that formed the basis for the Army's UH-72 Lakota helicopter.
Airbus H145M, showing a gun pod on the left and a 12-round rocket pod on the right. (Photo from Airbus Helicopters)
According to a handout provided by Airbus at the AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland, the H145M has two pylons that can carry rocket pods, gun pods, air-to-ground missiles like the Hellfire, or air-to-air missiles like the FM-92 Stinger. The H145M also retains a lot of the capabilities of the EC145, including the ability to medevac troops, to carry up to 10 troops, or to carry out search-and-rescue missions.
The H145M has a top speed of 143 nautical miles per hour and a range of 345 nautical miles, It also can carry up to 3,900 pounds of cargo.