The US Army has ordered another dozen Airbus Helicopters UH-72As as it stands up initial-entry rotary wing training at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Valued at $66 million, the contract options will be delivered from the final assembly plant in Columbus, Mississippi, starting in August 2017.
The additional orders are welcome news to Airbus Helicopters’ US-registered business unit, which has been trying with some success expand its Lakota customer base and shore up production in Columbus beyond 2017.
According to a company spokesman, the order brings the army’s total purchase to 412 and secures production through the end of 2017, with a funded backlog of an additional 74 aircraft.
The UH-72A was chosen by the US Army in 2006.
Airbus Helicopters Inc.
To date, Airbus has delivered 338 Lakotas to the army; five of five orders have been received by the US Navy; and the Royal Thai Army now has its six examples.
Resulting from the Army’s controversial army aviation restructure initiative, the service is outfitting 187 new and existing UH-72A as primary trainers to replace the Bell Helicopter TH-67 Creek.
Airbus says more than 50 Lakotas are already stationed at Fort Rucker, ready to assume the new UH-72A-based training curriculum starting early 2016.
“The army has said it intends to station 187 Lakotas at Fort Rucker for the training program and had indicated that they would procure 100 new aircraft as part of that plan, and would transfer aircraft from other army units,” Airbus Helicopters explains in an email.
The army’s initial requirement in 2006 was for 322 of the light, twin-engine general-purpose helicopters, and the US Navy joined the Lakota programme in 2012 with five orders to support test pilot training at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
“Time and again the UH-72A has proven to be the most cost-effective solution to meet a wide variety of needs for the US military and our allies,” says Airbus Group Inc. chairman and chief executive Allan McArtor. “The army’s flawless execution of the Lakota program has proven that even in today’s challenging defence acquisition environment, there are success stories for the taxpayer and warfighter alike.”
Based on the Turbomeca Arriel 1E2-powered commercial Airbus H145, UH-72A is designed to carry two pilots and six passengers 370nm and has a hover ceiling of 11,300ft.
Lakota was on display at the AUSA convention in Washington last month.
James Drew/Flight International