Feature story The UH-72A program: On time, on cost, and supporting the U.S. Army and America’s industrial base

April 21, 2011

As EADS North America nears the half-way point in supplying 345 UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters to the U.S. Army, the company has been acknowledged for its continued on-time, on-quality performance on this rotary-wing program – which is a key element in the military’s service’s modernization of its aviation assets.

The UH-72A equipped for operation with Army National Guard Security and Support Battalions (S&S Battalions) was displayed at the Army Aviation Association of America’s conference in Nashville.

“The Army is very pleased with the UH-72A and the performance of EADS North America – which has done a tremendous job of producing every aircraft on time or early,” said Col. Neil Thurgood, who has been the U.S. Army’s utility helicopter project manager.  “They have done exactly what we have asked them to do.  We are very proud to have EADS North America as part of our team, joining with the Army as we field modern platforms to our soldiers.”

Speaking to reporters at this week’s Army Aviation Association of America’s (AAAA) annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Thurgood explained that since 2007, more than 150 Lakotas have been fielded by the Army from its requirement for 345 of these twin-engine helicopters.

“As we reach this point, the UH-72A program is exactly on cost and on the schedule asked by the Army,” Thurgood added.  “While people often focus on the negative aspects of acquisition and its challenges, this is an example of the process doing exactly what it is supposed to do – on cost, on schedule and on performance.”

The latest Lakota version – a specially-equipped aircraft for Army National Guard Security and Support Battalions (S&S Battalions) – was exhibited by the U.S. Army at AAAA.  Its mission equipment package includes a chin-mounted sensor turret, operator console, cockpit and cabin touch-screen displays with moving map, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, along with a powerful searchlight.

Thurgood said 210 of the total 345 Lakotas required by the Army will go to the National Guard, and the majority of them will be in the S&S Battalion configuration.  This UH-72A version will enter service with the Army in 2011, joining other Lakotas that are configured for medical airlift, VIP transport and training missions – and which currently are operated across the continental U.S., in Puerto Rico and Germany.

UH-72A fielding also allows Black Hawk helicopters to be freed up for assignment to combat units.  “So far, we have been able to reassign 23 Black Hawks,” Thurgood added.  “This is very important for the Army’s strategy of making sure combat units have what they need, while the Lakotas provide what is required by our states and for homeland defense and security.”         

Thurgood also praised EADS North America’s successful implementation of a dedicated UH-72A production line at the Columbus, Mississippi facility of the company’s American Eurocopter business unit.  It resulted in the in-sourcing of this activity from Germany – where the helicopter has been produced for many years for international customers in the EC145 version – without missing a single production delivery slot.

“EADS North America has done exactly what it promised to do for such a major task, as every Lakota we now receive is 100 percent built in Columbus, Mississippi, and the supply chain is shifting to support it,” he said.  “This is important to us because it means that jobs, technical skills and advanced aviation equipment come to the United States.  Not only does this support our military, it supports our nation’s industrial base as well.”

In addition to maintaining its commitments on UH-72A deliveries, EADS North America continues its emphasis on the Lakota program’s other aspects, according to John Burke, Vice President of the company’s Light Utility Helicopter Program. 

“In addition to delivering the aircraft, we also keep the priority on supporting the entire system for this Defense Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1 major defense acquisition program,” Burke explained.  “To date, 850 pilots and maintenance personnel have been trained, 29 sites have been established and logistically supported, and we work every day to ensure the operational availability rate.”

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