The US Army has awarded Bell Helicopter a contract to modify 27 OH-58D armed reconnaissance helicopters under the Kiowa Warrior Safety Enhancement Programme (SEP).

The aircraft will form Lot 12 of the programme. Bell is modifying aircraft in Lot 11, and is on track to complete all work by June, ahead of schedule.

The Kiowa Warriors are being upgraded with an improved engine and computer control systems that include related wiring harnesses. The improvements are part of a series of safety and performance modifications implemented by the Army to keep the helicopter safe and mission effective until it is retired.

Amy Tedford, director of Military Fielded Systems at Bell Helicopter, says every aircraft in Lot 11 was delivered two months ahead of schedule.

The work is being done at Bell Helicopter’s Plant 1 facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Work on the Lot 12 aircraft is scheduled to be completed in 2010. Once the aircraft in Lot 12 have been completed, Bell will have modified 253 Kiowa Warriors.

The fleet of Kiowa helicopters has accumulated more than 1.7 million flight hours and 460,000 combat flight hours. Despite high usage rates, daily combat scenarios and harsh environmental conditions, the OH-58D continues to achieve readiness rates above 80%.

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