This hyperreal picture, taken by Wesley Prirchett, titled simply "Wingman," won the US Army Aviation Photo Of The Year award. It depicts a super wide-angel view of a pair of recently retired OH-58D Kiowa Warriors skirting the colorful Hawaiian coastline, and it's nothing short of gorgeous.
Check it out in its full, glorious resolution below:
The OH-58D is being controversially retired this year after incredible service in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Under a new Army Air master plan, all OH-58 and TH-67 trainer aircraft will be retired, many with long service lives left on their airframes. Training will be done on the Army's fleet of UH-76 Lakota twin engine utility choppers, many of which are brand new.
The Guard will end up giving all its Apaches to the active force and the armed scout mission will be taken up by AH-64E Apaches along with unmanned aircraft, such as the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. In exchange, the Army National Guard will gain some Black Hawks, although the deal is seen as a large net loss for the Guard overall.
To put it mildly, this plan is seen as a tough decision at best, and a horribly near-sighted one at worst, as the Kiowas offer an incredibly capable and cost-effective light air support and surveillance solution. Just as well, their crews have a reputation for extreme bravery when it comes to executing their mission.
The loss of the highly experienced National Guard Apache crews is an eyebrow-raising call, to say the least. Additionally, having students train on a six-million dollar twin-engine Eurocopter is a strange way to fill a square hole with a round peg.
As one Army Aviator put it to me, "it is like giving your 15 year old idiot kid a fully loaded, turbocharged Lexus SUV for his 16th birthday."
Regardless of the Army's recent decisions when it comes to its rotory wing force, congrats Wesley on the big photo win, and here's to all you Scout crews out there. You'll be sorely missed, but hopefully some of you will be greatly appreciated in the AH-64E Apache community and wherever else you find yourself in the future.
And for an added bonus, see an OH-58D's wild ride down low over lush Hawaiian canyons:
Source: US Army Aviation Facebook page
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com