The Lakota Light Utility Helicopter
What is it?
The Lakota light utility helicopter (UH-72A) is the Army's newest aircraft. It is a light, commercially procured aircraft designed to perform a variety of missions in permissive environments. The Lakota will provide the flexibility to respond to homeland security requirements, conduct civil search and rescue operations, support damage assessment, support test and training centers, perform generating-force missions, augment the HH-60 medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) aircraft, conduct border security operations, and provide support to continental U.S. counter-drug operations. The Lakota will conduct general support utility helicopter missions and execute tasks as part of an integrated effort with other Joint services, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.
The Lakota is designed to transport six Soldiers plus its crew (two pilots). Additional configurations include the capability of carrying two North Atlantic Treaty Organization litters with patients and one medical attendant. The aircraft will also have a hoist for use in emergency evacuations.
What has the Army done?
The Army continues to rapidly and efficiently modernize its aviation fleet. The Army procured and began fielding a total of 345 Lakotas beginning in FY06. The Lakota program is now in full-rate production, with 16 aircraft fielded at an estimated total cost of approximately $5 Billion. The Lakota is one of several aircraft, including the armed reconnaissance helicopter, the UH-60M Black Hawk, the CH-47F Chinook, and the Joint cargo aircraft, that are being added to the Army aviation inventory with funds previously designated for the canceled Comanche helicopter.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
Army aviation will continue to modernize as it works closely with other services now and well into the future. Army aviation is moving forward in applying mission-specific modification packages that will allow the Lakota aircraft to better support the Army National Guard and TDA units to which it will be assigned. These include MEDEVAC storage, ventilation, tactical radio, Very Important Person, and situational awareness (i.e., forward-looking infrared radar, electronic knee board) kits.
Why is this important to the Army?
The addition of the Lakota light utility helicopter to the Army aviation inventory will strengthen the National Guard's ability to support homeland security missions by allowing the aged UH-1 Huey and OH-58 Kiowa aircraft to be retired, while allowing UH-60s to be cascaded to tactical units for use in combat as needed.