Procurement: Croatia Goes Kiowa On The Cheap

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December 19, 2016: In December 2016 Croatia received the last 11 of 16 OH-58 helicopters it had ordered from the United States. These were used, but in good shape and cost $2.6 million each, including spares, training, three flight simulators and maintenance support. These 16 helicopters were built between 2010 and 2012 and served in combat (Iraq and Afghanistan) from 2012 to 2015. The OH-58s had some additional repairs and upgrades before shipping them to Croatia. Since Croatia is a NATO member and a reliable ally in a rough neighborhood (the Balkans) American aid covered over half the cost, so Croatia paid less than two million dollars for each OH-58D. If all this was purchased new, without any discounts, the cost would be nearly $14 million per helicopter.

The U.S. has lots of experience refurbishing, maintaining and upgrading OH-58s because many were used heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2009 the U.S. has spent several billion dollars to refurbish and rebuild the older ones to make them good for another 10-12 years of military service.

The OH-58D is a militarized version of the Bell 206. The current OH-58D Kiowa Warrior 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. The current OH-45 models include new, and improved, electronics and other components. Although originally designed as a two seat scout helicopter the OH-58 has also been used often for combat.

Croatia joined NATO in 2009. This expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe annoyed Russia because they could not accept the fact that these new NATO members were seeking protection from future Russian aggression. Russians see themselves as benefactors to their neighbors, while the neighbors see Russia as a cruel bully. Russians have a hard time dealing with how their neighbors really feel.

Croatia has been working since 2000 at upgrading the Cold War era weapons and equipment. Croatian armed forces are small (17,000 troops) and doesn’t have a lot of money. So like many new NATO members they were able to buy Cold War surplus weapons from other NATO members at good prices, or for free.

 


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