Kiowa Warrior combat pilot Adam Korinek fondly recalls the OH-58

Adam Korinek and OH-58 Kiowa in Iraq. Photo: Adam Korinek.

20th August 2015 | Boston, Massachusetts. July 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, during which the Royal Air Force (RAF) became locked in combat with the Luftwaffe (National Socialist Germany’s air force). Seven decades later the West found that they were faced with another threat. One man who answered the call to defend America in the period following the 11th September 201 attacks was Adam Korinek.

Mr. Korinek’s grandfather-in-law, William Jutland Jeacock, knew much about the Battle of Britain for he soon afterward undertook the duty of flying Spitfires as an Royal Air Force (RAF) sergeant pilot. The aviation legacy continued through his granddaughter Amy, but only after she met and married U.S. Army Air Cavalry officer and helicopter pilot Adam Korinek. Adam would attain the rank of major and command a squadron after several tours of combat flying in Iraq. Initially, however, Adam, like so many other aspiring flyboys, had to earn his wings at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Sergeant Pilot William Jutland Jeacock, RAF. Painting Image Courtesy of Annie Thomas.

Adam Korinek had always aspired to become a pilot, but flying helicopters was not something he had considered when younger. Mr. Korinek commented, “I knew I wanted to join the military out of high school so I began looking into Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) programs, but after visiting a few programs it became apparent that virtually everyone in Air Force ROTC had the same goal.” Adam did not relish flying a desk. Therefore, being a self-described pragmatist, it occurred to Korinek that “by joining an Army ROTC program I likely stood a better chance of getting into aviation as far fewer Army ROTC cadets were interested in flying.” He elaborated, “While the Army has a great number of fixed-wing aircraft, the fixed-wing slots tend to be far and few between for initial flight school students, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. I just knew the Army path afforded me the best opportunity to get in the cockpit.”

How did that goal translate into flying rotary wing aircraft? “Despite not being in the original plan,” stated Adam Korinek, “I was hooked on flying helicopters the moment the skids left the ground on my first flight. I remember during my first ‘solo’ cross country flight.” Solo flights in the Army’s Initial Entry Rotary Wing (IERW) course are done with two student pilots in the cockpit. “We were starting to get the feeling we were lost, so we simply landed in an intersection, read the road names, found it on the map and we were off again. This was, of course, not an option in a fixed wing aircraft,” explained Mr. Korinek. The decision was made, and Adam’s future path was set.

A Bell UH-1A Iroquois in flight. Photo: U.S. Army.

Mr. Korinek graduated from the Army’s last class (IERW) of UH-1s. The Iroquois (more commonly referred to as the ‘Huey’) was, as Mr. Korincek said, “an amazingly forgiving aircraft to learn in. We often joked that hovering looked more like stirring a pot of soup because you could make significant cyclic inputs and it remained in a relatively stable hover.”

A Bell TH-67A in flight. Photo: U.S. Army.

Furthermore, he said, “The Huey also had ample power which made over-torquing relatively difficult. My counterparts who trained in the Bell TH-67 (Jet Rangers) were always concerned about over-torquing and typically took several more hours of training to learn how to maintain a steady hover which was something most of the UH-1 guys had down within the first couple flights.”

Adam provided an interesting aside, “The aircraft we trained in were Vietnam-era aircraft, most of which had patched up bullet holes which I thought was pretty cool — until I acquired bullet holes in my OH-58 a year later!”

An OH-58. Photo: U.S. Army.

Mr. Korinek recalled that, “Both the UH-1 and the OH-58D were great to fly. The UH-1 was a bit like driving a bus when compared to the 58, but for a beginner, I thought it was the perfect platform.”

The OH-58 was a different animal altogether. . . .” This machine, a Vietnam colleague of the UH-1, was Bell Helicopter’s answer to the U.S. Army’s request for an aircraft to complement new artillery capabilities. Originally unarmed as part of the Army Helicopter Improvement Program, the OH-58D featured a four-blade main rotor, a more powerful turbine engine, multifunctional displays, and a Mast Mounted Sight (MMS). Notably, the MMS incorporated an aesthetically distinctive Television System and Laser Rangefinder/Designator. For offensive work the Kiowa Warrior, a type now being phased out of service by the Army and Army National Guard, could be armed with .50-caliber machine guns, seven-shot rocket pods, air-to-air Stinger missiles, or Hellfire air-to-ground missiles on two weapon hardpoints.

Adam Korinek provides a ‘thumbs up’ prior to a sortie in Iraq. Photo: Adam Korinek.

“My decision to fly Kiowas was driven by two unrelated influences,” related Adam Korinek. “First, unlike the air force, the army is known for having its installations in some less than desirable areas. I decided very early on to do everything I could to avoid the less these undesirable posts.” Therefore, I worked hard to determine where the Army had the majority of each type of airframe, and then narrowed my list down to the UH-60 Blackhawk and the OH-58. However, it wasn’t until I flew a tactical simulator and exposed to the various missions associated with each airframe that I decided I wasn’t interested in being an assault pilot.”

Why was assault flying not as attractive to Mr. Korinek? He explained that, “While the assault guys were very good at what they do their flight profiles tended to be more straight-line flying with an emphasis on formation flight and working to hit their ‘time on target’ with great precision. In contrast, scout pilots flew between and below treetop-level, darted between buildings, and routinely passed under bridges and power lines. Now THAT was the kind of flying I wanted to do! From that point, my decision on what airframe to fly was quickly made!”

Adam commented, “Miraculously, it all worked out. I got an OH-58D slot for my advanced training, and against all odds, I was assigned to Hawaii right out of the gate.” The posting to Hawaii was exciting but little did Mr. Korinek know how little of Hawaiian Islands he would actually see as a result of his frequent and long deployments. Yet, he indicated, “The few months I spent there were great.”

Adam Korinek also spoke about some of the characteristics by the OH-58: “The 58 was a 4-bladed aircraft with tapered blade tips which made it very quiet for a helicopter. We liked to approach a target from downwind and at low altitude which almost completely masked our approach audibly speaking. Yet, it was an exceptionally squirrelly aircraft, and it actually had a Stability Augmentation System (SCAS) built in to reduce some of that sensitivity.” However, Adam soon learned to “embrace that control sensitivity, and often flew with all of the force trim, which is a mechanical tightening of the controls in the cockpit, whereas SCAS is an electronically controlled system that dampens the control inputs removed from the flight controls.”

An OH-58 fires Hellfire missile in Iraq. Photo: Adam Korinek.

“In point of fact,” added, Mr. Korinek, “that control sensitivity enabled us to do some amazing things with the aircraft. In one instance overseas we were flying along an MSR (main supply route — Army jargon for an interstate) in Bagdhad when we received a BOLO (‘be on the lookout’ alert) for a black SUV traveling at a high rate of speed. Coincidentally, as that call came over the radio it so happened that I was looking out my door, and we flew doors off, and I noticed a black SUV weaving in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed. I pointed it out to the right seater, and he dumped the collective [control stick], dropping us to 15 feet above the road, and simultaneously did a pedal turn so we were then flying 35 knots sideways down the interstate in front to the SUV.”

Bell OH-58Ds escorting vehicles in Iraq. Photo: Bell Helicopters.

Adam then pulled his “M-4 from the dashboard leaned out of my seat out the door with one foot on a skid and aimed my weapon at the driver.” With the occupants peering skyward at the threatening sight, Korinek stated, “Needless to say, it did not take long for them to understand that we wished them to stop. Fortunately for all, it turns out they were Blackwater [private contract security] guys so we carried on with our reconnaissance flight, but that incident demonstrates how nimble the OH-58 could be.”

Adam Korinek and his Air Cavalry squadron in Iraq. Photo: Adam Korinek.

“The 58 was an exceptional combat platform,” convincingly stated Adam. “Granted, it was notoriously limited on power, and as a result, we often had to choose whether we wanted to fly a full bag of gas, or a full weapons load. Often on hot days we would have to “walk” the aircraft forward on the runway until we build up enough speed to get us into clean air (beyond ETL — Effective Translational Lift), but the Kiowa Warrior was quiet and had a small heat signature which made it difficult to shoot down with traditional heat-seeking weapon systems like the Russian SA-7 Grail ‘man-portable air-defense’ (aka Manpad) heat-seeking missile — a fact that I literally owe my life to.”

An OH-58D in Iraq. Photo: U.S. Army.

Korinek explained the last statement: “In 2004, we were flying to a ‘troops in contact’ (TIC) at an Iraqi police station which had come under a sustained attack. As the air mission commander I flew trail in a flight of two which made up the Scout Weapons Team, and while talking to the platoon leader of the unit engaging the attacking force I heard an explosion and the aircraft literally jumped as though we hit a pocket of turbulence. The concussion actually took the air out of my lungs, and it took a few seconds to reorient myself.”

A Russian soldier aiming an SA-7. Source: Wikipedia.

Adam Korinek continued, “I looked out my door to our six o’clock and saw a smoke trail emanating from a house and heading up to just off our port or left side. The smoke trailed continued to us and arced down a mile or so in the air. At the same time our lead aircraft began receiving small arms fire. It was a coordinated ambush to attack the aircraft that they knew would respond to the ground assault.”

The smoke trail and explosion would later be determined to have been from an SA-7 Manpad. “Fortunately,” explained Adam, “the engine exhaust on the OH-58D is small enough and is routed up through the rotor blade so that it is dispersed and thereby the turbine’s heat signature is reduced. Despite the SA-7 system acquiring us initially, which is required for the missile to leave the launch tube, it could not reacquire us when the missile’s attitude shifted slightly during the transition from its launch motor to the main motor.” He added, “Had we been in an Apache or any other aircraft in the army’s inventory we likely would not have been so fortunate.” In this instance the inherent qualities of the Kiowa Warrior had saved two pilots’ lives.

Adam posing with an Apache in Iraq. Photo: Adam Korinek.

Adam has never regretted his considerable time in the OH-58. He has now moved on with a lucrative civilian career. Nevertheless, occasionally during sleep the sights, sounds, and smells associated with Kiowa Warriors enter into his dreams as these memories are forever seared into his psyche.

Those of us safely on the home front continue to admire and be grateful for men and women like Adam Korinek who willingly and unreservedly risk life and limb to defend freedom and democracy. We salute you!
The author (John T. Stemple) thanks Adam Korinek for granting him an interview and his military service.

Suggested Viewings

A Day in the OH-58 Kiowa the Little but Incredibly Effective Attack Helicopter of the US Army

Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior (2012)

Kiowas Fire On Taliban (Original)

OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in VCAS (Very Close Air Support)

OH-58 Kiowa Warriors Pilot doing pre-checks, start-up and taking flight | AirSource

OH-58D Kiowa Live Fire (2012)

Sources and Suggested Readings

152D OH-58 Pilot

Army planning to scrap OH-58 Kiowa Warriors helicopter fleet: Reports

Aviation Restructure Initiative: OH-58D personnel transition plan under way–d-personnel-transition-plan-under/article_8d4a12e4-4fba-11e4-b8db-0017a43b2370.html

Army Debates Divestment of Kiowa Warrior; Replacement Program in Doubt

Aviation Museum of Kentucky – Facebook

Battle Brewing Over Future Of Army Aviation Programs

Bell TH-67 Creek–d-personnel-transition-plan-under/article_8d4a12e4-4fba-11e4-b8db-0017a43b2370.html

Bell OH-58 Kiowa

The Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior

HMS Excellent

Man-portable air-defense system

Mills, Robert. Blackdeath 23: My Journal as an Army Helicopter Pilot in Iraq, Wise Printing, 2014.

OH-58 Kiowa

Werner, Jr., Floyd S. OH-58D Kiowa Warrior – Walk Around Color Series No. 50, Squadron/Signal Publications, 2008.