We get behind the controls of a Magni M16 gyroplane, chat with NASA engineers about the Mars Helicopter, look at Helinet’s firefighting Black Hawk & reflect on the legacy left by Universal Helicopters.
Airbus Helicopters has secured orders from the U.S. Army for another 15 UH-72 Lakota aircraft it uses for training, utility and other domestic missions.
The $122.6 million deal announced March 3 covers work at Airbus’s Columbus, Mississippi, plant through August 2022. By that time, the Army will have taken delivery of at least 478 Lakotas, based on the twin-engine commercial H145.
The UH-72A is a twin-engine light utility helicopter used for a wide range of military operations including border patrol, medevac, troop and VIP transport, light cargo, and homeland security. All 15 of the new aircraft will be delivered in the baseline training configuration.
More than 440 Lakotas have been delivered to the Army since an initial contract for 345 UH-72s was awarded in 2006. Airbus in August delivered the 200th UH-72 to the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
The aircraft initially were fielded to National Guard units for a variety of missions. The Lakota became the primary training helicopter for all Army rotorcraft pilots as part of the Aviation Restructure Initiative aimed at moving combat aircraft like the AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk from reserve to active Army units.
As part of the ARI, the legacy TH-67 training helicopter was scrapped in favor of the Lakota, which was officially designated the Institutional Training Helicopter. Accordingly, the Army in 2013 decided to increase its UH-72 fleet by 110 aircraft, from 317 to 427 helicopters and has continued to increase the total fleet number in small batches of more than a dozen aircraft at a time.
More than 1,500 Army pilots have trained on the Lakota, according to Airbus. The U.S. military’s fleet has amassed more than 600,000 total flight hours.