Bell OH58A -
Lease from the US Army.
1971 the Australian Army leased Eight Bell OH-58A Kiowa’s United States
Army for use by 161 (Indep) Recce Flt in Vietnam. There was, reportedly,
an attempt to rename the Australian Kiowa's "Kalkadoon"
after the Aboriginal tribe. The name did not take.
aircraft was a four-seater, observation type helicopter powered by a 317
shaft horsepower gas turbine engine. Some measure of the efficiency of the
gas turbine engine may be gauged from the fact although the engine in the
OH-58 produced 17% more power that that in the Sioux but it weighed about
one third the weight (136 lbs).
||100 knots (135mph)
||Approx 250 nautical
||Approx 3 hours*
||Approx 600 lbs
|Maximum Weight in
||440 lbs (C of G
|Maximum Weight in
||475 lbs (C of G
Varies with altitude, air temperature, airspeed and all up weight.
the aircraft were only on lease from the US Army and would eventually be
returned the initial agreement required that all maintenance procedures
and documentation conform to the requirements of the US Army. The level of
maintenance allocated to 161 (Indep) Recce Flt was only to organisational
level, first line maintenance. Direct support and higher was required to
be carried out by the US Army and the 388th Maintenance Company at Vung
allocation of direct support maintenance to the US Army was not completely
satisfactory, particular whilst the Flight was based at Nui Dat.
difficulty was experienced in providing adequate training for RAEME
personnel from the Flight due to the lack of suitable training schools and
the different maintenance philosophy of the two Armies.
the loan agreement was approved pilots and maintenance support personnel
from 1761 (Indep) Recce Flt began aircraft conversion training with the
5th Aviation Detachment at Vung Tau. The engine tradesmen also did a one
week engine course at the Army Aviation Refresher Training (AART) School
at Phu Loi.
from US Army stocks, the first batch of four OH-58A’s were accepted by
pilots from 161 (Indep) Recce Flt at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport on 24
July. The aircraft were flown to Nui Dat via Vung Tau .
last of the eight OH-58A's arrived at Nui Dat on 28 August.
tail numbers of the aircraft received were in a continuous block starting
with 70-15236 through to 70-15243 inclusive.
for the aircraft’s serial number (viz 70-15239) all other US Army
markings were removed and replaced with Australian roundels and tricolour
flashes which were applied to both sides of the fuselage and vertical
Kiowa Roles in Vietnam.
The OH-58A Kiowa's were
only operated by the Flight for eight months but in that time they were
used in a diverse range of roles and they ably demonstrated their
suitability in the respective roles. The roles that these aircraft were
use for included the following:
||Command and Control
Bomb Damage Assessment
|Air Courier Tasks
|Top Cover Missions
|| 'Sniffer' Missions
28 July, just four days after receiving the first aircraft, the inaugural
operational sortie by an ‘Australian’ OH-58A (70-15236) was flown by
Mick Reynolds in direct support of 4 RAR.
Down and Going Home.
the decision made that all Australian military forces were to be withdrawn
from Vietnam 161 (Indep) Recce Flt began preparing the moved from Nui Dat
to Vung Tau and this task was completed on 05 October. The Flight remained
fully operational in support of 1ATF throughout the move.
15 November, Lt Grant Steel (RNZIR), while conducting a visual
reconnaissance in 70-15241, North of Long Son Island, located an occupied
enemy camp and he was engaged by at least three enemy automatic weapons.
Although his aircraft was extensively damaged he was able land the
aircraft in a safe area, thus saving his passenger and himself from
aircraft had been hit by at least 12 rounds of small arms fire. It was
recovered back to Vung Tau where because of the extensive damage it was
returned to the US Army for subsequent repair or disposal. The fate of the
aircraft is unknown.
the wind down of the Flight's commitment and the imminent withdrawal of
the majority of the Flight from Vietnam three of the seven remaining
helicopters were returned to the US Army on 9 December 1971. A formation
of four aircraft departed Vung Tau for Saigon via Nui Dat, Courtney, Xuan
Loc and Long Binh to return the aircraft to the US Army.
rear-party led by Tub Matheson and two other pilots plus 12 OR's and the
four remaining OH-58A's was formed on 16 December and they assumed the
responsibility for all operational flying tasks of the Flight. The CP and
the workshop element moved into the Eastern side of the RAAF hangar
vacated by 9 Sqn.
last operational flight in Vietnam for 161 (Indep) Recce Flt was flown by
Tub Matheson on 29 February 1972 in 70-15237.
02 March 1972 the last four ‘Australian’ OH-58A’s (236, 237, 239
& 242) were flown to Saigon and handed back to the 166th Air Movements
Section of the US Army, thus bring to a close a very important chapter in
the annals of Australian Army Aviation.
the Porter replaced the Cessna and the Kiowa replaced the Sioux 161 (Indep)
Recce Flt had the distinction of being the first "all turbine"
unit in Australian Army Aviation, albeit with the US Army OH-58A in South
in Vietnam the 'Australian' OH-58A's flew a total of 3,534 hours and 3,766
the late 1960’s the Australian Army had established a requirement for a
Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) to replace the Bell 47G Sioux.
February 1971 it was announced that 75 examples of the Bell OH-58A Kiowa
would be ordered for the Australian Army. The model chosen was the 206B-1
version, a military variant of the 206A Jet Ranger with an upgraded engine
and lengthened rotor blades. To aid operating in unprepared areas, the
206B-1 would also incorporate higher skids.
24 July 1971, 161 (Indep) Recce Flt, in Vietnam, took delivery of the
first of eight Bell OH-58A Kiowa’s on lease through the US Army.
launch the Australian programme it was decided to import the first 12
Kiowa’s in knock-down form with re-assembly planned for Bell
Helicopter’s facility at Brisbane Airport.
22 November 1971, the first Bell 206B-1 Kiowa (nee OH-58A) was handed over
to the Australian Army Aviation Corps at Brisbane Airport.
built machines were produced under the CAC designation of CA-32, the first
of which (A17-013) was first flown from Fishermans Bend Victoria on 20
nearly three decades of service with the Australian Army Aviation Corps
the Kiowa is still soldiering on. The aircraft is currently operated by
the School of Army Aviation at Oakey for training purposes and operational
tasks by 162 Recce Sqn in Townsville and 161 Recce Sqn in Darwin.
September 1999, 162 Recce Sqn deployed to East Timor as part of the
INTERFET Forces. 162 Recce Sqn was replaced by 161 Recce Sqn in December
of that year and is currently in East Timor as a member of the United
Nations Peace Keeping Forces, albeit a lesser commitment.