Feature story General Richard Cody: UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters will “turbo-charge” the Army National Guard’s Aviation Fleet

December 11, 2006

The U.S. Army’s new UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter provides a highly capable aircraft for U.S. homeland defense and homeland security missions, and will free up other rotary-wing assets for deployment overseas to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Among the initial U.S. Army personnel qualified on the UH-72A Lakota are Lieutenant Colonel Patrick H. Mason (right) and Chief Warrant Officer Rucie J. Moore.

At the December 11 acceptance ceremony for the first of up to 322 UH-72As currently targeted for acquisition, top Army officers said they have chosen the right aircraft for its Light Utility Helicopter mission. The no. 1 UH-72A was formally handed over by EADS North America at the Columbus, Mississippi facility of its American Eurocopter business unit – where the twin-engine aircraft will be built and delivered.

Many of the UH-72As will go to Army National Guard units, and will be ready to provide medical evacuation, rescue and disaster relief support, as well as carry out counter-narcotics operations, according to General Richard A. Cody, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

“The UH-72A is going to provide some great capabilities across the United States, and this is a tremendous way to turbo-charge the modernization of the Army National Guard’s aviation fleet,” Gen. Cody told journalists during a press briefing at the delivery event. “This airframe is much more modern than the older-generation helicopters it will be replacing. The UH-72A has better aerodynamics, engines, transmission, and a much improved cockpit for pilots.”

In addition, the UH-72A’s built-in air-to-ground communications systems will allow its crews to talk directly to such “first responders” as state police, firefighters, emergency service personnel and ambulance crews – a capability that will significantly speed up rescue and disaster operations, Gen. Cody added.

Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, the Army National Guard’s Director, said UH-72A operational advantages include the combination of a large cabin and a small overall profile – with the ability to maneuver in close while producing less rotor wash than larger helicopters.

“The UH-72A responds to the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and our other operational experience,” Lt. Gen. Vaughn explained. “With this helicopter, we have twin-engine safety, a tremendous rotor system for stability and response, plus the ability to hoist from both sides of the cabin. Army National Guard units are going to be very excited about the capability they’re getting with this aircraft.”

Lt. Gen. Vaughn noted the UH-72A is one of the first major new systems to be fielded initially by the Army National Guard. It will allow a “tremendous number” of heavier-lift transport helicopters to be transferred to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as enable the stand-down of older-generation rotary-wing aircraft that perform security missions in the United States.

The no. 1 UH-72A Lakota was delivered to the U.S. Army three months early, and a second helicopter will be received by the service before year-end. For the December 11 delivery event, the first Lakota was parked outside on American Eurocopter’s flight line and it performed demonstration flights for invited guests, VIPs and international journalists. The no. 2 aircraft was positioned inside the Columbus facility, and served as the signing ceremony’s backdrop.

As the ceremony was being held, the area adjacent to American Eurocopter’s current 92,000-sq.-ft. plant was alive with activity, as construction crews prepared a major expansion that will house the UH-72A’s assembly hall and flight line, as well as a paint shop, warehouse and administrative offices. This new facility will add two large buildings with a total size of 219,000 sq. ft to the company’s helicopter center of excellence at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, and its total staffing will increase to nearly 340 persons.

• Also see the photo feature from the UH-72A’s December 11 delivery ceremony.

• View the News archive for other stories.