- Associated Press - Friday, June 12, 2015

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) - Fort Riley troops stood in formation Friday as a fleet of Kiowa helicopters flew overhead in a symbolic tribute to the retiring aircraft, which has served as aerial cover for ground troops for nearly 50 years.

“This is like if you go back to the days of the old (cavalry), and they retired horses for tanks,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Beyer, who commands the squadron that houses Fort Riley’s 28 Kiowa helicopters. “The sadness that you can read about in cavalry lore, the sadness that was created by moving away from horses, we will share that sadness when this aircraft goes away.”

Unlike the heavily armored Apache helicopters, Kiowas are intended to be flown so low that they have been outfitted with wire cutters in front of the cockpit in case the helicopter encounters power lines. Kiowa pilots have are known for leaning out of the cockpit to fire M-4 carbine rifles at enemies on the ground.

“We love talking with the ground guys,” Capt. Josh Waddell, who has flown the Kiowa for five years, told The Manhattan Mercury (https://bit.ly/1IAfhNK ). “We’ll fly over (forward operating bases) and be like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? You guys doing all right?’

“Or we’ll go check out convoys - if they don’t have any aerial security assigned to them, we’ll just help them out for half an hour, especially as they’re rolling through a high-risk area,” he said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tim Riordan said he has grown to love the Kiowa after spending more than 1,500 hours in the cockpit. But he said advances in drone technology and the need to trim costs have led the Army to replace the Kiowa with a combination of Apache helicopters and Shadow unmanned aerial systems.

Riordan and other of the squadron’s pilots will fly the unit’s Kiowas to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, where the helicopters will be stored.

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Information from: The Manhattan (Kan.) Mercury, https://www.themercury.com


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