DH - Defence Helicopter

UH-72A Lakotas surpass the 10,000 flight-hour milestone in US Army service

25th March 2009 - 16:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The US Army's growing fleet of UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters has passed the 10,000 flight-hour milestone, demonstrating the aircrafts' mission performance and reliability in operations throughout the United States.

Fifty-eight UH-72As have been delivered by EADS North America to the US Army and Army National Guard for missions including homeland security, medical evacuation, logistics and VIP flights.

"Day after day, the UH-72A program is fulfilling a key role in the modernization of the US Army's helicopter assets," said EADS North America Chairman and CEO Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. "All Lakotas have been delivered on time or ahead of schedule, and we remain committed to providing America's warfighters with the very best equipment to accomplish their important missions."

The UH-72A is based on Eurocopter's proven EC145 multi-role helicopter. As part of EADS North America's expansion of its US industrial presence, a fullscale Lakota production capability in Columbus, Miss. facility and pilot training in Grand Prairie, Texas are components of the American Eurocopter business unit. These two facilities generate high-value jobs in the United States.

The UH-72A fleet has an operational availability rate higher than 90 percent, underscoring the readiness of these rotary-wing aircraft to perform their varied assignments. The Lakota fleet is supported through a combination of performance-based logistics using full contractor logistics support (CLS) and a hybrid CLS concept with the Army National Guard aircraft.

With their coast-to-coast basing, UH-72As are used in operations that range from support and medical evacuation missions at the Army's National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, Calif. to multi-role airlift flights in the nation's capital area. Lakotas also participated in disaster relief and coordination missions for Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in the southern US last September.

Current basing and operating locations for the UH-72A fleet include the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.; Fort Eustis and Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Irwin, Calif.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Morrisville, N.C.; Pineville, La.; Tupelo, Miss.; the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and Washington, D.C.

Lakotas carry six passengers and a crew of two pilots in the standard Light Utility Helicopter configuration, while two litters are accommodated for MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) flights. The UH-72A also has been certified by the US Army for the free-fall deployment of paratroopers, using the rotary-wing aircraft's large side-fuselage sliding doors.

Certain Lakotas will be equipped with a mission equipment package for the Army National Guard including an electro-optic and infrared sensor, digital moving map, searchlight, and data link for the Army National Guard Reconnaissance and Interdiction detachment (RAID) missions.

To date, 128 Lakotas have been ordered by the Army, with the military service planning to acquire a total of 345 UH-72As through 2016. In addition, five Light Utility Helicopters have been ordered by the US Navy for pilot training at the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Md.

In addition to their US Army basing in the continental United States, overseas deployments of UH-72As are anticipated in Europe and Japan. The Lakota's phase-in enables aging National Guard OH-58 and UH-1 rotary-wing aircraft to be retired, while Lakota deliveries to the active component of the Army free up UH-60 Black Hawks for assignment to warfighting missions.

Training of US Army personnel for the UH-72A is provided by EADS North America through American Eurocopter. More than 200 Army pilots and nearly 100 maintenance personnel have been trained to date at American Eurocopter's Grand Prairie, Texas headquarters.

A new pilot training class begins every two weeks at Grand Prairie, and now includes the use of a new full-motion helicopter flight simulator at the Texas facility.

Production of the UH-72A averages three to four helicopters per month - with the capability of reaching five aircraft monthly at the Columbus production site. The state-of-the-art installation is performed at a 220,000 sq. ft. addition to American Eurocopter's Mississippi rotary-wing aircraft center of excellence, which is located adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.

The facility has met its goal of creating new job opportunities in the region, with total employment planned to surpass 250 as the UH-72A program reaches its full production and final assembly capability.

 

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