The Army is upgrading some of its Bell 206B-1 Kiowa helicopters with new digital avionics to address obsolescence issues, reduce support costs and make the helicopters more suitable for lead-in training for the Tiger ARH, MRH 90 and CH-47.
Under the Army Minor Capital Project 015.50 Kiowa Navigation Rationalisation Project, Sikorsky Helitech is modifying between 24 and 27 Kiowas at its Pinkenba, Queensland, facility. The $9.4 million modification project includes the replacement of analogue attitude and horizontal situation indicators with Sandel electronic displays; the installation of dual Garmin GNS 430W GPSs to replace the obsolete VOR, marker beacon and instrument landing system; and the installation of a Garmin GTX 330 transponder to replace the AN/IPX 72 system.
Kiowa obsolescence issues have been a concern for the ADF for some time with the DMO assessing that an avionics upgrade would be more cost effective than continuing to maintain older analogue instruments.
Once complete, the avionics upgrade will allow the Kiowa to fly under IFR rules and conduct GPS approaches.
A Defence spokesperson told Australian Aviation there is no relationship between the Kiowa upgrades and Air 9000 Phase 7, which is being worked to the DCP timeframe. Further, there are no currently approved programs to provide similar improvements to the Navy’s AS350BA Squirrel helicopters.
Work to upgrade the Kiowas has commenced and is scheduled for completion in July 2011.