Delivery of the 100th UH-72A Lakota helicopter occurred on March 4 at American Eurocopter’s production facility in Columbus, Miss., where the twin-engine helicopter is produced. The facility, operated by EADS North America’s American Eurocopter business unit, has an average production rate of three to four helicopters per month. The 220,000-square-foot facility, located adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, is capable of producing up to five aircraft a month.
The 100th Lakota helicopter will be deployed to Germany with the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center. In Germany the helicopters will be used to train pilots in combat engagements, and will carry equipment that includes a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System.
The Army plans to acquire 345 Lakotas through 2016, and it has ordered 182 of the helicopters so far, along with five H-72A versions for the Navy. The Navy’s H-72As are used by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland for the training of test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. Aircraft already delivered to the Army are used in missions that include medical evacuation, search and rescue, drug interdiction, VIP transport, and support. The UH-72A fleet has logged more than 25,000 flight hours to date at an operational readiness rate of more than 90 percent.
“The UH-72A Lakota program is crucial to modernizing the U.S. Army’s aviation assets, and the delivery of the 100th Lakota helicopter to the Army is a significant accomplishment for the Mississippians who build these capable aircraft in the Golden Triangle,” commented Sen. Thad Cochran, the ranking member of the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee. “This achievement proves that off-the-shelf commercial air frames can be successfully adapted for military applications at a lower cost to the taxpayer. It also reflects well on our state’s industrial capabilities and our ability to support the Armed Forces.”
The Lakotas are currently based across the continental United States and in Puerto Rico. In the coming months Lakotas will be deployed to Germany and the Kwajalein Atoll Islands in the Pacific.