A commemorative 100th Lakota poster was presented to the Program Executive Office for Aviation and Project Office for Utility Helicopters leadership as well as to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour at the 100th Lakota rollout ceremony Thursday in Columbus, Miss. Keys and logbook for the 100th Lakota light utility helicopter were also presented to Brig. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation.

COLUMBUS, Miss. - The 100th delivery of the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter was celebrated at a rollout ceremony Thursday at the American Eurocopter facility in Columbus.
The delivery marks another on-time and on-budget achievement for a successful program that supports America's war fighters and contributes to homeland security.

"The UH-72A Lakota program has progressed on schedule and within budget constraints," said Col. L. Neil Thurgood, the Army's project manager of the Utility Helicopter office. "The aircraft has been well received by Army aircrews and we have maintained a remarkably high operational availability rate combined with an admirable safety record. We especially look forward to fielding even more of these capable aircraft to Army National Guard units throughout the United States."

Delivery of the 100th Lakota occurred at American Eurocopter's production facility in Columbus, where the twin-engine helicopter is produced. The American Eurocopter facility was significantly expanded to accommodate production of the Lakota, which created and supports hundreds of high-value aerospace jobs throughout the United States.

"I am extremely proud of the team that developed this machine and I congratulate them on their first 100 deliveries of the 345 new aircraft the U.S. Army will buy," said Brig. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation. "I am pleased to report that our units have maintained a near zero mishap rate while maintaining an operational availability rate of over 90 percent -- in the course of flying tens of thousands of hours with the Lakota."

"Delivering on our commitments to the U.S. Army has been the industry team's number one priority since being selected for the Lakota program in June 2006," said Sean O'Keefe, EADS North America's chief executive officer. "Our performance of 100 percent on-time deliveries reflects an unwavering commitment to fully support our customers' current and future needs."

The 100th Lakota aircraft will be deployed to Germany with the Army's Joint Multinational Readiness Center, becoming part of this unit's Combat Training Center and further expanding the Lakota's mission applications.

"When EADS North America and American Eurocopter decided to invest in Mississippi several years ago, Mississippians made a commitment to help these companies succeed," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. "When the Army chose EADS North America to supply the UH-72A Lakota, EADS made a commitment to help the war fighter succeed. Today the 100th Lakota helicopter is evidence of that commitment. I'm extremely proud of the work they do to support America's men and women in uniform."

The Army plans to acquire 345 Lakotas through 2016, and the service has ordered 182 of the helicopters so far, along with five H-72A versions for the Navy. Aircraft already delivered to the Army are used in missions that include medical evacuation, search and rescue, drug interdiction, VIP transport and support, with the in-service UH-72A fleet logging more than 25,000 flight hours to date at an operational readiness rate of more than 90 percent. The Navy's five H-72A versions are utilized by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., for the training of test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries.

"The UH-72A Lakota represents the latest in the broad evolution of Army aviation's improvements in: digitization, maneuverability and reliability," Crosby said. "These improvements are needed to execute the new and critical homeland security, MEDEVAC and disaster relief missions we conduct. I can tell you that the Lakota has already become the cornerstone of the U.S. Army's aviation fleet - and it has acquitted itself well in even the most distant parts of our land. I am pleased that many other countries have also indicated an interest in this airframe."

The UH-72A is a Defense Acquisition Category I major defense acquisition program for the Defense Department, and the Lakota's service entry in 2007 marked one of the most rapid introductions of a new aircraft in the Army's history. 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 Army free up UH-60 Black Hawks for assignment to war fighting missions.

For their service in Germany at the Joint Multinational Training Command, the helicopters will be used to train pilots in combat engagements, and are to carry equipment that includes a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, a Smart On-Board Data Interface Module, and an electronic data manager.

When deployed to the Pacific Ocean's Kwajalein Atoll, the UH-72As will perform transport and support duties. They are to be painted in a high-visibility orange color scheme and outfitted with skid-mounted floats, a life raft and jettisonable cockpit doors for rapid egress.

Production of the UH-72A averages three to four helicopters per month at the Columbus production site, which is operated by EADS North America's American Eurocopter business unit. The 220,000 square foot facility, located adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, is capable of producing up to five aircraft a month. The company continues to meet its goal of creating new job opportunities in the region, with total employment reaching 250 employees as the UH-72A program attains full rate production. (Program Executive Office for Aviation release)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16