The first flight of the UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter equipped with the Security and Support Battalion (S&S Battalion) Mission Equipment Package (MEP) was performed recently at the EADS American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss.
The S&S Battalion MEP will greatly expand the Lakota’s use for reconnaissance, command and control and air movement operations in support of U.S. homeland defense and security missions with the U.S. Army National Guard.
When it enters service, this MEP will be operated by U.S. Army National Guard Security and Support (S&S) Battalions. The new UH-72A version integrates a mission equipment package that includes a nose-mounted center line payload with infrared and electro-optical sensors and laser pointer, moving map and touch-screen displays, a video management system, digital video recorder and data downlink system, plus additional avionics and communications equipment. The helicopter will carry a 30 million candlepower searchlight and an external hoist.
U.S. Army National Guard S&S Battalions are located throughout the United States and provide a dispersed, readily available, light aviation capability for military missions and operations in support of civil authorities.
The UH-72A is produced in Columbus, Miss., by EADS North America’s operating unit, American Eurocopter, which built a dedicated assembly line for the Light Utility Helicopter. A systems integration facility was created at this site to manage the development of UH-72A’s mission equipment package for the Army National Guard S&S Battalion configuration.
A total of 345 UH-72As are planned to be acquired by the U.S. Army through 2015, approximately 200 will be assigned to the Army National Guard. Initially, 100 Lakotas are expected to be equipped with the mission equipment package for operation by the S&S Battalions.
EADS North America has delivered 125 UH-72As, all provided on time and within budget. These aircraft are being used in missions across the U.S and Puerto Rico that include medical evacuation, search and rescue, drug interdiction, VIP transport and general aviation support.
A UH-72 (tail number 72007) was observed last month at Leesburg Executive Airport in Virginia transporting Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, Deputy Commanding General for Initial Military Training.
UH-72As also have been deployed overseas, with aircraft now located with the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany for training and support operations, and on the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll for transport and support missions at the Army’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.
Additionally, 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.
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 assignment to warfighting missions.