Four US Army UH-72A Lakotas arrived at the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll June 6, marking the latest overseas assignment for the EADS North America-built Light Utility Helicopter.
These Lakotas will be used for transport and support missions at the Army’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, replacing aging UH-1 helicopters. Painted in high-visibility orange, the Lakotas are equipped with skid-mounted floats with integrated life rafts and jettisonable cockpit doors.
“The UH-72A Lakota is uniquely suited for forward basing in a remote location like the Kwajalein Atoll due to the aircraft’s superior reliability, maintainability and operational availability rate,” said Col. L. Neil Thurgood, U.S. Army Utility Helicopter Project Manager.
The four UH-72As were transported by a US Air Force C-17 airlifter to Kwajalein Atoll from Mississippi, where the Lakota is produced by American Eurocopter, an operating company of EADS North America.
“This latest deployment is yet another strong demonstration of UH-72A’s ability to perform a full range of missions, contribute to national security and support critical warfighter readiness,” said EADS North America CEO Sean O’Keefe. “Building on 125 consecutive on-time deliveries to date, this challenging deployment underscores the Lakota’s global mobility, which is an operational necessity for modern military systems.”
This is the second long-haul international deployment for the Lakota, and it follows the shipment of five UH-72As to Germany in April for operation at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC). The JMRC helicopters will support pilot training for combat engagements, and to carry observers of war game scenarios performed against “aggressor” aircraft. Five additional Lakotas are scheduled for delivery to the JMRC by January 2011, adds EADS in a statement.
The US Army plans to acquire 345 UH-72As through 2016, and the service has ordered 187 of the helicopters so far – including five H-72A versions acquired for the US Navy.
In addition to the aircraft assigned to the Kwajalein Atoll and with the JMRC in Germany, UH-72As are operated throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico by active duty Army and Army National Guard units. They are used for missions that include medical evacuation, search and rescue, drug interdiction, VIP transport and general aviation support.
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 warfighting missions.
To date, EADS North America has delivered 125 UH-72As. The in-service UH-72A fleet has logged more than 35,000 flight hours at an operational readiness rate greater than 90 percent.