A pair of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior gunships provides aerial reconnaissance and security during an early morning escort mission near the central Iraqi city of Hit.
OH-58D variant Kiowa helicopters are the US Army's smallest and most agile attack helicopter. Based on the civilian Bell 206A JetRanger, the Dept. of Defense has used these continuously since their introduction in the Vietnam conflict in 1969. Armed with a seven-rocket pod carrying 70mm Hydra-70 air to ground rockets and a Browning M2 .50 caliber electronically fired machine gun, these small airframes are capable of flying at speeds approaching 150mph below "canopy" level (at or lower than 50 feet off the ground). Combat-loaded with fuel and a full ammo load, the small Kiowa Warrior weights slightly more than a Ford Taurus (with a family in it).
The above-rotor mounted sensor array is the most visually unique feature of this airframe, and it houses daytime television sighting, Forward-looking Infrared (FLIR) optics, and a laser-rangefinding and target designation system, giving the Kiowa the ability to track and designate targets from below a treeline and out of sight from enemy anti-aircraft defenses.
All photos taken with a Canon 1D Mk III with a 70-200/2.8L IS.