The US Army has opened discussions with American Eurocopter to introduce a B-model of the UH-72A Lakota in 2017.
“The army every 10 years looks at how to improve and enhance and modernise its aircraft,” says Marc Paganini, American Eurocopter chief executive.
Details of the potential upgrade are unclear, but Eurocopter has introduced the T2 model of the civil EC145 on which the UH-72A is based since the military version was inducted into service in 2007.
The T2 model replaces the tail rotor with a fenestron, among other improvements.
The LUH programme also is likely to be extended beyond the current programme of record for 345 aircraft, Paganini says.
He notes that eight states will not receive any UH-72As under the present plan and some states will not receive a full complement of aircraft for their units.
A contract extension is critical for avoiding a break in production at the UH-72A factory in Columbus, Mississippi. Eurocopter is waiting for an army decision on whether to replace the Bell Helicopter OH-58 Kiowa Warrior with a new armed scout helicopter, for which it is proposing the AAS72X+, a version of the EC145 T2.
Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter chief executive, says he expects the army to make its decision after the third quarter. The Eurocopter bid for the AAS-72X, which includes Lockheed Martin, faces competition from a re-engined Bell OH-58F Block II, stretched Boeing AH-6S Little Bird and a long-term proposal by Sikorsky for the high-speed S-97 Raider.