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Feature story Building on success: the UH-72A continues its rapid fielding with the U.S. Army

October 5, 2009

The on-time, on-budget deliveries of EADS North America’s UH-72A Lakotas to the U.S. Army reached its 86th aircraft at the end of September, with this deployed fleet accumulating more than 17,500 flight hours and providing an overall operational readiness rate of 93 percent.


Col. Neil Thurgood, the U.S. Army’s Utility Helicopter Project Manager (at right), and John Burke, EADS North America’s Vice President of the Light Utility Helicopter Program, provided a UH-72A program update for journalists attending the AUSA annual meeting and convention.

During a briefing for journalists in Washington, D.C. today, the UH-72A program was called “highly successful,” and a “tremendous effort” that has quickly fielded a large number of rotary-wing aircraft while also establishing a new U.S. production line that has now reached its full-rate output for the Light Utility Helicopter.

“Because the program has moved rapidly from idea to fielding, Congress has recognized this success and accelerated the UH-72A’s acquisition process,” explained Col. Neil Thurgood, the U.S. Army’s Utility Helicopter Project Manager.  “The last of our planned 345 Lakotas originally were to have been completed in 2016, but the planning is now to produce the final five in 2015.”

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) 2009 annual meeting and exposition, Thurgood said EADS North America is delivering between four and five Lakotas every month, which are going to both Army and National Guard units across the country.

“EADS North America has provided the UH-72A on time, within budget and on schedule to date – which is a great success,” he added.  “In addition, the company has done a tremendous job in creating a brand new facility in Columbus, Mississippi to build the Lakota, which means additional jobs for our nation and which brings additional supply chain management to the U.S.”

The fielded Light Utility Helicopters are flying disaster relief, support and other missions, with these aircraft equipped both in MEDEVAC and passenger transport configurations.  Future uses will include homeland security, homeland defense and civil law enforcement support with a mission equipment package that includes an electro-optical infrared sensor, data communications suite, moving map display, digital video recorder and a searchlight.

Included in the 86 deliveries to date is the first of five H-72As for pilot training with the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland.  Thurgood said he sees the potential for other UH-72A applications within the U.S. armed services, along with opportunities for exports through government-authorized foreign military sales.

John Burke, EADS North America’s Vice President of the Light Utility Helicopter Program, said Lakotas have been deployed to 15 units so far, which are nearly evenly divided between the regular Army and National Guard.

“UH-72As are stationed from California to Puerto Rico, and from Texas to Vermont today,” Burke told reporters at today’s AUSA media briefing.  “We expect to deliver the 100th aircraft in February, 2010 – just four years after program inception.”

Nearly 500 Army pilots and maintainers have been trained so far by the American Eurocopter business unit of EADS North America, with contractor logistics support and engineering services provided by Helicopter Support International (a Sikorsky subsidiary) and American Eurocopter. 

A full-motion flight training device for UH-72A pilots is in operation at American Eurocopter’s Grand Prairie, Texas headquarters facility, and two cockpit procedures trainers built by CAE in Florida are now with the U.S. Army’s Eastern Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.


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