Kiowa Warrior synergy (instead of organic UAVs) with Artillery Squadrons

From Savvas D. Vlassis

The synergy of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Reconnaissance Helicopters for recognition and targeting was revealed by the second semester artillery shots of the 4th Army Corps that took place between October 18-20 at the Petrotes Shooting Range in Xanthi.

The case highlights the constant effort to maximize the utilization of existing material, with tests of tactics and practices that can perform even as cases of necessity or last resort. Reconnaissance Helicopters, by the nature of their mission, may reveal targets suitable for Artillery and therefore cooperation with it is normal.

However, the modern reality of the battlefield indicates that small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with the appropriate sensors offer more practical and effective solutions for the purpose of identifying and pointing out targets. Despite this, since the Greek Army is training in the utilization of Reconnaissance Helicopters for the case in question, so that the specific possibility exists, it is interesting to see what challenges are presented.

Target recognition presupposes the existence of sensors of remarkable performance. Aerial platforms, taking advantage of the flight altitude, enjoy a more advantageous field of observation, which offers greater target detection distances from their sensors. In the case of the OH-58D, the primary sensor is the Web Aiming System (MMS) which incorporates a high definition TV camera, an infrared (IR) thermal imaging sensor and a range finder/laser designator.

The TV camera allows target detection and pointing at long distances and in low light conditions.

The thermal imaging sensor ensures target acquisition and pointing in dark and adverse weather conditions.

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The range finder/laser designator provides accurate target designation for the direction of HELLFIRE laser homing projectiles.

The thermal imaging sensor on the MMS is more modern and slightly superior to that of the AH-64A attack helicopter and M60A3 TTS tanks. So it doesn’t offer anything exceptional as a sensor during the night race, by modern standards. The performance of the TV camera is also finite and limited to daytime combat while the rangefinder/laser designator as mentioned is sufficient in terms of performance to take advantage of the HELLFIRE, maximum range of 8 km.

All of the above describe performances much shorter than the maximum range (20-40 km) of the Artillery used, such as the PzH 2000GR, M109 and RM-70 used in the specific shots. Therefore, the OH-58D must operate in a more advanced position but not too deep beyond the Forward Location Limit, as the gun elements, or PEP, are positioned some kilometers behind the POT. This reality can be seen in the relevant video from the activity, in which the OH-58Ds can be seen passing the firing gunners’ emplacements and advancing forward. To exploit greater range performance of artillery systems, the Kiowa Warrior is not the optimal choice in target recognition and designation.

This situation confirms the generally risky nature of the missions that the Reconnaissance Helicopters are called to carry out. The mission conditions and the great exposure to threats of portable anti-aircraft missiles, make it very necessary to have electronic self-defense systems to improve the survivability of Reconnaissance Helicopters, just as it is the case with Attack Helicopters. The war in Ukraine has underlined this reality. As the Kiowa Warriors were acquired without such systems, it is vital to equip them with them.

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Another challenge that exists is that of the communications between the Reconnaissance Helicopters and the Fire Control Centers (CDCs) of the Artillery Squadrons. The latter do not provide for the existence of Radio Stations specifically for communications with air means, as is the case with the Contact Groups of the Infantry Battalions, in which an Air Control Officer (AELA) or a Helicopter Control Officer (AELE/P) is provided for. In these cases, secure communication with a HAVE QUICK or SATURN system is possible. In any case, somehow the Artillery Squadrons’ KDPs communicate with the OH-58D Kiowa Warriors for this particular cooperation, however, the key issue is to ensure secure communication with encryption and not makeshift emergency methods.

Equipping only the Kiowa Warriors with electronic self-defense systems, as well as the restoration of security communications with the Artillery Squadrons, require considerable expenditure. Ideally, the first requirement must be met immediately while the second can take the form of investment for the supply of organic UAV systems to the Artillery Squadrons, which will literally “take off” their capabilities as a whole.

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