Bell Helicopter has flown its demonstrator for the OH-58 Block II, which the company is proposing to meet the U.S. Army’s Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) requirement to replace the Kiowa Warrior.

Flown for the first time on April 14 from Bell’s Xworx research and development facility in Fort Worth, the Block II is re-engined with Honeywell’s 1,000-shp-class HTS900 turboshaft to improve the OH-58’s hot-and-high performance, and meet the Army’s requirement to hover out of ground effect at 6,000 ft. altitude on a 95F day.

The Block II builds on the Army’s existing cockpit and sensor upgrade program (Casup), which is modernizing OH-58Ds to F models by updating the avionics and moving the electro-optical/infrared sensor from above the rotor to under the nose. Bell argues the Block II upgrade is a cost-efficient way of meeting the AAS requirement compared with developing a new helicopter or buying an off-the-shelf machine such as the Boeing AH-6S, EADS AAS-72 or AgustaWestland AW119.

The Army was forced to upgrade its OH-58Ds and launch the AAS program after development of the Bell ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) was canceled in 2008 because of cost escalation and schedule delays.

Bell President and CEO John Garrison says the engine, transmission and rotor upgrades in the Block II “provide a great deal of the performance of the ARH” and, combined with the F-model Casup update, “give the Army a way to extend the life of the OH-58 to 2025.” Delaying retirement of the Kiowa Warrior would allow time for a next-generation replacement to emerge from the Army’s Joint Multi-Role technology demonstration, now getting under way with rival demonstrators planned to fly around 2017.

“Increasing the capability of the OH-58 platform to 6K/95 [6,000 ft. at 95F] ... provides the Army with the best-value solution for AAS,” Garrison says, adding, “A new start does not make sense as there is no money in the budget.”

Existing Kiowa Warriors could be upgraded or remanufactured to the Block II standard. “We will have a warm line,” Garrison says.