First unit receiving the UH-72A is the Mississippi Army National Guard's 1/114th Service & Support Battalion in Tupelo, Mississippi
(Tupelo, Mississippi, June 7, 2008) -- EADS North America's first two UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters for the U.S. Army National Guard were formally presented to the 1/114th Service Support Battalion, which performs homeland security, counter-drug and other operations from its base at Mississippi's Tupelo Regional Airport.
Army National Guard units will be the primary operators of UH-72As, ultimately receiving 200 of the total 345 Lakotas planned for acquisition through 2017.
"Today's UH-72A presentation to the Mississippi Army National Guard marks an important milestone for EADS North America as we meet - and exceed - our company's commitments to those in uniform who protect America and ensure its national security," said David R. Oliver, Jr., EADS North America's Executive Vice President, at this morning's Tupelo, Mississippi handover ceremony.
The first two helicopters received by the Army National Guard were the 28th and 29th UH-72As delivered by EADS North America - all of which were provided on or ahead of schedule. Previously-delivered Lakotas have been assigned to the Army's National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, California; the Training and Doctrine Command's flight detachment at Fort Eustis, Virginia; and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The UH-72A provides a modern helicopter for use in the Army National Guard's state and national homeland security missions, and its introduction will enable the retirement of aging OH-58 and UH-1 rotary-wing aircraft. Additionally, Lakota deliveries to the active component of the Army will free up UH-60 Black Hawks for assignment to warfighting missions.
EADS North America's UH-72A Lakota program represents one of the most rapid introductions of an Army aircraft in the service's history. The Light Utility Helicopter contract was awarded in June 2006, followed by EADS North America's startup of UH-72A deliveries in November of the same year. Operational service began in early 2007 at Ft. Irwin, and the Army issued full-rate production authorization for the Lakota last August.
Lakota deliveries currently are averaging three to four helicopters per month, with the capability of reaching five aircraft monthly. In addition to their assignment to Army and Army National Guard units in the continental United States, overseas basing of UH-72As are anticipated for U.S. Army units in Europe, Japan and the Pacific. The Lakota also has attracted interest from other U.S. military operators, and U.S.-approved foreign military sales also are a possibility.
The UH-72A is based on the EADS group's Eurocopter EC145 multi-role civilian helicopter, which is in service worldwide for transport, medical evacuation, off-shore, law enforcement and other missions.
EC145s are built at Eurocopter's Donauworth, Germany facility, with UH-72A production for the U.S. Army being handled on a second production line at a new state-of-the-art facility in Columbus, Mississippi, which is operated by EADS North America's American Eurocopter business unit. This purpose-built plant is a 220,000 sq. ft. add-on to American Eurocopter's existing 97,000 sq. ft. helicopter assembly facility at Columbus' Golden Triangle Regional Airport, which began operations in 2004 with two dozen workers.
Total staffing at the expanded production facility in Mississippi will surpass 200 later this year as UH-72A production hits its pace. The Columbus site's annual payroll is estimated at approximately $15.3 million, providing an economic stimulus for Mississippi, opening dynamic new ties between industry and the state's educational institutions, and bringing high-value technological capabilities to the region. In addition to its direct employment, this industrial activity provides an estimated $36 million in contract work for some 150 vendors within the state of Mississippi.
"The UH-72A program demonstrates how we are able to provide the U.S. military and its warfighters with a proven aircraft, built and delivered on time in this country by American workers," said Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., Chairman and CEO of EADS North America.