Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakota fleet surpasses one million flight hours with US armed forces

According to information released on September 11, 2021, during the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) trade show in Washington, D.C., the Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakota fleet has exceeded the 1 million flight-hour mark, some 15 years after the first Lakota UH-72A entered service for the U.S. Army and following the first delivery of the newest UH-72B to the National Guard.

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U.S. Army Warrant Officer 1 Josh Bilby, assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, performs a hover taxi in a UH-72 Lakota Helicopter on Toth Stagefield Army Heliport, Fort Rucker, AL. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

“Many of the men and women who build the Lakota in Mississippi are U.S. military veterans themselves, and they take a lot of pride in supporting the aviators who serve our nation,” said Scott Tumpak, who is responsible for Airbus military helicopter programs in the U.S. “The million-hour milestone is a testament to the commitment of that workforce who has supported unprecedented on-time deliveries and to the reliability and versatility of the aircraft they build.”

Airbus delivered the first Lakota helicopter to the Army in 2006, the same year the UH-72A was competitively selected as the Army’s new light utility helicopter, and has since delivered 463 of this initial Lakota model which primarily serves as the U.S. Army’s initial entry rotary-wing training helicopter. Earlier this year, the Army introduced the first UH-72B Lakota to its National Guard fleet, the first delivery of an order placed in 2020 for 18 of the newest Lakota variant. The UH-72B is based on the widely successful H145, which incorporates various product enhancements that have been developed during the lifecycle of the commercial aircraft. The efficient Fenestron tail rotor, more powerful engines, enhanced controls and the Airbus Helionix avionics suite, to name a few, will provide added benefits for mission safety and flight performance.

By the end of October 2021, the Lakota will be operational for Army and National Guard units in 45 states and territories. It is also flown by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and Royal Thai Army, and is a key enabler of U.S. Army combat training in Ft. Irwin, CA, Ft. Polk, LA and Hohenfels, Germany, and as well as the test range mission at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. The Lakota’s missions are as varied as its operating locations and include training, general utility, search and rescue, disaster response, homeland security, drug interdiction, command and control, and VIP transport. Lakotas have been employed extensively in responding to wildfires, hurricanes, floods and other disasters across the country and abroad in recent years, including most recently to provide support following devastating natural disasters in Haiti.

With nearly 10 different configurations available, the Lakota delivers proven performance, outstanding operational reliability, and unmatched versatility for a broad spectrum of military missions. Airbus Helicopters, Inc. builds the Lakota at its production facility in Columbus, Mississippi, which employs a workforce of nearly 250 employees, 40% of whom are U.S. veterans.

The UH-72A LAKOTA Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) will conduct general support utility helicopter missions and execute tasks as part of an integrated effort with other joint services, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. The LUH is to be deployed only to noncombat, non-hostile environments. The UH-72A is a variant of the American Eurocopter U.S.-produced EC-145.

The UH-72A is a twin-engine, single-main-rotor commercial utility helicopter of the 3–6 ton class. Two Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 engines, combined with an advanced four-blade rotor system, provide lift and speed in a wide range of operating conditions, including high-altitude and single-engine operation capability. Access to the aircraft is through sliding doors on each side of the cabin or through the wide rear clamshell doors.

The UH-72A Lakota is equipped with an advanced glass cockpit with a Vehicle and Engine Management Display (VEMD) that significantly reduces crew load. Its spacious unobstructed cabin, accessible through the side and rear doors, provides unique mission flexibility. It can be equipped with advanced military avionics for communications, navigation, and flight management systems. The aircraft’s High Tail Rotor and Energy Absorbing Landing Gear Skid enhance maneuverability and provide increased ground clearance and safety.

Crew seating comprises two individual, longitudinally adjustable, energy-absorbing pilot and copilot seats with headrest and four-point safety belts with an automatic locking system. The passenger seats have a four-point restraint harness. When equipped for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operations with two NATO standard litters, passenger seating is limited to a medical attendant and a crew chief.

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