The Australian Army has retired its last seven U.S. made Kiowa scout helicopters to training duty, and replaced them with French made Tiger helicopter gunships.
The Kiowa is a militarized version of the Bell 206, called the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. This one ton helicopter has a top speed of 226 kilometers per hour, and a range of 241 kilometers. It has a mast-mounted sight, which carries a powerful FLIR (heat sensing camera) and a laser designator. The OH-58D is lightly armed, and usually only carries four Hellfire (anti-vehicle) or Stinger (anti-aircraft) missiles, or 14 70mm unguided (or guided) rockets. Planned upgrades include new, and improved, electronics, but also the possibility of a much needed new engine. Over the decades, the new equipment has been added, without an increase in engine power. For a scout helicopter, the OH-58 was getting more sluggish as it got older. The U.S. is seeking a replacement for its OH-58s, which are base on 1960s era technology.
The six ton Tiger has a crew of two and a max speed of 280 kilometers an hour. It cruises at 230 kilometers an hour, usually stays in the air about three hours per sortie. It is armed with a 30mm automatic cannon, 70mm rocket pods (19 rockets per pod) and various types of air-to-ground missiles (eight Hellfire type missiles can be carried). It can also carry four Mistral anti-aircraft missiles.
Development of six ton Tiger began in 1987, before the Cold War ended, and only began entering service six years ago. The Tiger costs about as much as the older and heavier (at eight tons) AH-64 Apache (about $45 million each), and was developed to emulate the success of the Apache (which entered service in 1984). Some nations, like Australia, are using the Tiger as an armed scout helicopter, as their Kiowa scouts were usually unarmed.
France has bought 80 Tigers, Spain 24 and Australia 22.