AUSA 2017: Lakota readies for training takeover
The 400th Lakota was delivered to the US Army in August of this year. Airbus Helicopters was awarded the contract in 2006 and the first aircraft, albeit an off-the-shelf helicopter, was delivered in that same year.
‘The 400 deliveries have all been on time and on cost which is a pretty significant accomplishment in the defence world,' said Scott Tumpak, senior director of the Lakota programme at Airbus Helicopters.
‘With contract logistics support as well. Right now, we are fielding those aircraft to Fort Rucker for the training mission,’ he added.
On the training transition from the single-engine TH-67 Creek to the twin-engine Lakota, Tumpak said that the army is ‘flipping’ towards 75% usage of the Lakotas as the ramp up continues. This transition in earnest between aircraft is taking place this quarter, he said.
In relation to a twin-engine aircraft being a key training platform, Tumpak commented: ‘If we think about the US Army’s training missions with the current Lakota it's optimal for their training mission. The additional performance of this aircraft is not necessary. There are other US Army missions such as medevac, surveillance and reconnaissance.’
While there have been rumblings that the application of a twin-engine into the US Army’s fleet could make heavy work for training pilots, Airbus Helicopters noted that the aircraft helps the service especially as its active fleet are also twin-engine and have glass cockpits.
The Lakota’s predecessor is a single-engine aircraft with steam gauges and additional training was required to utilise twin-engine aircraft and glass cockpits. The Lakota now eliminates this step saving time and cost.
The primary training mission comprise almost half of the aircraft on the current requirement from the army. The mission emerged in 2014 as part of the army's Aviation Restructure Initiative. The manufacturer provides technical and parts support in this area.
This year Airbus Helicopters is hoping to continue the success of on time and on cost as it aims to complete delivery of 27 aircraft.
In relation to the breakdown of aircraft being delivered this has been based on the army’s demands and in some instances Tumpak said a batch of 55 aircraft were delivered to the service in the last 11 years.
More than 460,000 flight hours have been achieved across the Lakota fleet since 2006. Six aircraft are also operated by the Royal Thai Army and the US Navy have five aircraft at its test pilot school in Patuxent River.
Tumpak confirmed that there was a possibility of the Royal Thai Army taking on more aircraft but could not confirm further details at this stage. In addition, there are other militaries interested in the platform through the FMS route.
However, staying stateside, Tumpak commented that ‘the army has increased its own requirement and there’s appropriate funding through Congress. We are looking forward to a contract for a further 44 aircraft'.
The army requirement is up to 462 aircraft.
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