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EADS North America Delivers 100th UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to the U.S. Army
EADS North America delivered its 100th UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to the U.S. Army today, marking another on-time and on-budget achievement for a highly successful program that supports America’s warfighters and contributes to the nation’s homeland security.
“The UH-72A Lakota program has progressed on schedule and within budget constraints,” said Col. L. Neil Thurgood, the U.S. Army’s Project Manager of the Utility Helicopter office. “The aircraft has been well received by Army aircrews and we have maintained a remarkably high operational availability rate combined with an admirable safety record. We especially look forward to fielding even more of these capable aircraft to Army National Guard units throughout the United States,” he added.
Delivery of the 100th Lakota occurred at American Eurocopter’s production facility in Columbus, Miss. where the twin-engine helicopter is produced.
The American Eurocopter facility was significantly expanded to accommodate production of the Lakota, which created and supports hundreds of high-value aerospace jobs throughout the United States.
“Delivering on our commitments to the U.S. Army has been the industry team’s number one priority since being selected for the Lakota program in June 2006,” said Sean O’Keefe, EADS North America’s CEO. “Our performance of 100 percent on-time deliveries reflects an unwavering commitment to fully support our customers’ current and future needs.”
The 100th Lakota aircraft will be deployed to Germany with the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) — becoming part of this unit’s Combat Training Center and further expanding the Lakota’s mission applications.
“When EADS North America and American Eurocopter decided to invest in Mississippi several years ago — Mississippians made a commitment to help these companies succeed. When the Army chose EADS North America to supply the UH-72A Lakota, EADS made a commitment to help the warfighter succeed.
Today the 100th Lakota helicopter is evidence of that commitment,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. “I’m extremely proud of the work they do to support America’s men and women in uniform.”
The U.S. Army plans to acquire 345 Lakotas through 2016, and the service has ordered 182 of the helicopters so far, along with five H-72A versions for the U.S. Navy. Aircraft already delivered to the Army are used in missions that include medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), search and rescue, drug interdiction, VIP transport and support — with the in-service UH-72A fleet logging more than 25,000 flight hours to date at an operational readiness rate of more than 90 percent. The Navy’s five H-72A versions are utilized by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., for the training of test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries.
“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 UH-72A is a Defense Acquisition Category (ACAT) I major defense acquisition program for the U.S. Defense Department, and the Lakota’s service entry in 2007 marked one of the most rapid introductions of a new aircraft in the U.S. Army’s history. Deliveries of the aircraft to National Guard units allow aging OH-58 and UH-1 rotary-wing aircraft to be retired, while UH-72As assigned to the active component of the U.S. Army free up UH-60 Black Hawks for assignment to warfighting missions.
“Time and again, Mississippi workers have answered the call and produced the tools our military needs to keep our country safe,” commented Sen. Roger Wicker. “The Lakota has made a substantial contribution to this important effort. The Lakota program has been delivered on time and on budget. This is a testament to the men and women who build these helicopters, as well as to the Army and EADS North America.”
The Lakotas’ current basing across the continental United States and in Puerto Rico will be expanded during the coming months — along with the missions they perform — as Lakotas are deployed to Germany and the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.
“It’s a privilege to represent the workforce that has successfully built and delivered 100 Lakota helicopters to the U.S. Army on schedule and on budget,” said Mississippi Rep. Travis Childers. “This program represents the hard work and dedication of hundreds of Mississippians, and I commend EADS for its commitment to our national security.”
For their service in Germany at the Joint Multinational Training Command, the helicopters will be used to train pilots in combat engagements, and are to carry equipment that includes a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES), a SMart On-Board Data Interface Module (SMODIM), and an electronic data manager.
When deployed to the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll, the UH-72As will perform transport and support duties. They are to be painted in a high-visibility orange color scheme and outfitted with skid-mounted floats, a life raft and jettisonable cockpit doors for rapid egress.
Production of the UH-72A averages three to four helicopters per month at the Columbus, Miss. production site, which is operated by EADS North America’s American Eurocopter business unit. 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 company continues to meet its goal of creating new job opportunities in the region, with total employment reaching 250 employees as the UH-72A program attains full rate production.
Source: EADS North America