|Role||Light utility helicopter|
American Eurocopter (assembly)
|Primary user||United States Army|
|Number built||250 (April 2013)|
US$5.9 million (flyaway cost, FY2012)
|Developed from||Eurocopter EC 145|
The Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota is a twin-engine helicopter with a single, four-bladed main rotor. The UH-72 is a militarized version of the Eurocopter EC145 and is built by American Eurocopter division of EADS North America. Initially marketed as the UH-145, the helicopter was selected as the winner of the United States Army's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) program on 30 June 2006. In October 2006, American Eurocopter was awarded a production contract for 345 aircraft to replace aging UH-1H/V and OH-58A/C helicopters in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard fleets.
The U.S. Army's LHX program began in the early 1980s, proposing two helicopter designs with a high percentage of commonality of dynamic components. One was a light utility version ("LHX-U") for assault and tactical movement of troops and supplies, the other was a light scout/attack version ("LHX-SCAT") to complement the growing development of the AH-64 Apache. As the program was developed, the light utility version was dropped and focus was placed on the light attack reconnaissance version, which eventually became the RAH-66 Comanche.
In 2004, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army made the decision to terminate the RAH-66 program. As part of the termination, the service was allowed to keep the future years' funding programmed for the Comanche. To replace the capability that the Comanche was supposed to offer, the U.S. Army planned several programs, including three new aircraft. The Army Staff decided that these three aircraft, the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), and the Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) (later renamed Joint Cargo Aircraft, or JCA), were to be existing, in-production commercial aircraft modified for Army service.
LUH Program and UH-145
The LUH program was initiated in early 2004, with an initial stated requirement for 322 helicopters to conduct homeland security, administrative, logistic, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) and support of the army test and training centers missions. The LUH contract was released in late July 2005. At least five proposals were received. The competitors included the Bell 210 and Bell 412, MD Explorer and AW139. EADS North America (EADS NA) marketed the UH-145 variant of the EC 145 for the program.
On 30 June 2006, the U.S. Army announced that the EADS NA entry had won the competition for the LUH contract, the value for which was estimated as being worth over $3 billion. In August, the UH-145 airframe was officially designated the UH-72A by the Department of Defense. The UH-145 award was confirmed in October 2006 following protests from losing bidders. Despite the impact of the four-month delay due to the protests, EADS NA was able to deliver the first UH-72 on time in December, at which time the name Lakota was also formally announced for the type, in line with the service's long-standing tradition of giving its helicopters Native American names. The LUH marked EADS NA's largest DoD contract to date, and added to existing programs including the U.S. Coast Guard's HH-65 Dolphin and HC-144A and various other defense and security systems contracts.
The Lakota received full-rate production (FRP) approval on 23 August 2007. This was to allow the U.S. Army to buy the full quantity of aircraft, planned at 345 through 2017 as of June 2008. The UH-72A is being produced at American Eurocopter's facility in Columbus, Mississippi. Production was transitioning from local assembly of aircraft kits received from Eurocopter Deutschland to full local production, which was slated to begin in March 2009. In December 2009, the service ordered 45 more UH-72As to increase the order total to 178. The 100th Lakota was delivered in March 2010. A total of 180 had been delivered by late August 2011; the 250th UH-72 was delivered in April 2013. That month, the U.S. Army decided to halt UH-72 procurement after 2014 because of budget cuts. Final orders will deliver 312 Lakotas to the service.
Armed Aerial Scout
The Armed Scout 645 (EC645) is a proposed armed version of the UH-72 for the U.S. Army's Armed Aerial Scout OH-58D replacement program being offered by EADS and Lockheed Martin. The companies announced a teaming agreement for the Armed Scout 645 on 4 May 2009. Three flight demonstrator aircraft named AAS-72X were built in 2010. They began flight testing in late 2010. In September 2012, EADS began voluntary flight demonstrations of the aircraft. Over the next two weeks they flew an AAS-72X and an EC145 T2 at high altitudes. Flying took place from September 24 to October 3, and the aircraft met performance requirements. There are two versions of the aircraft being offered for the program: the AAS-72X, an armed version of the UH-72, and the AAS-72X+, an armed military version of EADS subsidiary Eurocopter's civilian EC-145T2.
In May 2012, EADS North America forwarded information about the UH-72A Lakota to the U.S. Air Force, making it a candidate in the Common Vertical Life Support Platform (CVLSP) program to replace the UH-1N Twin Huey. As with the U.S. Army, the Lakota can replace the Hueys used by the air force in permissive environments. Advantages over the UH-1N include 30 percent more speed, range, and loiter time, enhanced reliability and crashworthyness, night vision compatibility, and modern avionics. New airframes cost about $5.5 million per unit and are cheaper to operate than the UH-1N. As of March 2013, the CVLSP is not receiving funding but is still being pursued by air force officials. In August 2013, the air force said it would finalize a plan to sustain its UH-1N fleet for another six to ten years. On 16 September 2013, acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning received a letter from the chairman and CEO of EADS North America. It argued that the plan to refit and maintain the Hueys would cost more than the acquisition and operation of UH-72A Lakotas for the mission of protecting nuclear missile sites. Since the air force will be the only service flying UH-1N models, they would have to bear the additional costs of logistics, supply, and training pipelines. The letter also urged the U.S. Air Force to act soon, as orders for the U.S. Army are almost complete and the production line is winding down. While the air service says they have little money to allocate and can take the risk of using the Hueys for a few more years, EADS North America says that buying Lakotas "will lower the risk to the U.S. Air Force nuclear enterprise, and will save taxpayers the considerable cost of future recapitalization."
The UH-72 is designed to take on a range of missions, from general support and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) to personnel recovery and counter-narcotics operations. They are planned to replace the UH-1 and OH-58A/C, which are older light utility helicopters, and supplant other types in domestic use, primarily those in Army National Guard service. The UH-72 is being procured as a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product, which simplifies logistics support of the fleet. EADS NA has teamed with Sikorsky to provide Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) for the UH-72, through its Helicopter Support, Inc. (HSI)/Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance. (SAM) subsidiaries.
In May 2013, Congress questioned why the UH-72 had not been considered for a possible armed scout role. General Ray Odierno responded that the UH-72A was developed for homeland operations rather than for battlefield conditions. The UH-72 is typically employed by the U.S. Army National Guard as a utility helicopter in the U.S., which allowed UH-60 Black Hawks to deploy overseas. As of 2013, the utility version is not considered to be operationally deployable to a warzone; combat-capable versions were evaluated for the Armed Aerial Scout program. On 21 June 2013, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall wrote a letter to Congress, stating that modifications for combat conditions was "presently unaffordable." The service determined that fleet-wide combat modifications would cost $780 million and add 351 kg (774 lb) of weight to each helicopter; changes would include passive and active survivability systems, hardened engine and drive train, new external lighting, and communications upgrades.
The first aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Army on 11 December 2006 in Columbus, Mississippi. On 12 December 2006, General Richard A. Cody, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and Joe Red Cloud, a chief of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Lakota nation, accepted the first UH-72A in an official ceremony. The service estimated that delivery of the planned 345 aircraft would continue until 2017. The first production helicopters were sent to the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California for medical evacuation missions in January 2007. On 20 June 2007, the NTC's U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment (USAAAD) became the first operational unit to field the Lakota. On 10 July 2007, the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Flight Detachment at Fort Eustis, Virginia became the second U.S. Army unit fielded with the UH-72A.
A report published in August 2007, by the Operational Test and Evaluation Directorate (DOT&E) noted that, although the Lakota "is effective in the performance of light utility missions" it was prone to overheating during operations in the desert conditions of Fort Irwin, when not equipped with air conditioning systems. In response, vents were added in the doors to increase cabin air flow; air conditioning has been installed on some Medical and VIP versions also added air conditioning units for crew comfort.
The Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) located at Fort Polk, Louisiana received their first aircraft on 7 September 2007. On 16 January 2009, the United States Military Academy received two UH-72As, replacing two UH-1H helicopters for VIP transport to and from the academy. The helicopters also support the cadet parachute team and cadet training missions. The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School received the first of five UH-72As in September 2009. The UH-72A replaced the TH-6B Cayuse as the prime training aircraft for the test pilot school's helicopter curriculum.
By March 2010, the Lakota entered service in Puerto Rico, Kwajalein Atoll, and the U.S. Army’s missile test range in Germany. On 20 December 2010, a UH-72A assigned to the Puerto Rico National Guard became the first UH-72A to experience a fatal accident. The aircraft crashed at sea off the coast of Puerto Rico, and all six personnel aboard were killed.
On 18 July 2012, the U.S. Army received 3 UH-72A Lakotas at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. These are be used by the Aviation Flight Test Directorate for general support and as chase aircraft to support developmental testing of aircraft and aviation systems. With the delivery, the service has received over 200 UH-72As.
On 22 September 2012, the Oregon Army National Guard's Detachment-1, C Company, 1-112 Aviation received the first of four new UH-72A Lakota helicopters during a roll-out ceremony at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Oregon.
On 7 June 2013, Thailand requested the sale of 6 UH-72A Lakotas with associated equipment, training, and support for an estimated cost of $77 million. On 9 October 2013, the Thai government approved $55 million in funds to support the Royal Thai Army's acquisition of six UH-72A helicopters from 2013 to 2015. The government's decision gives the Thai Army permission to sign contracts to procure the helicopters.
- UH-72A Lakota
- An unarmed utility military version of the EC 145.
- UH-72B Lakota
- Proposed upgrade of the UH-72A with possible introduction in 2017; this new configuration is based on the upgraded civilian Eurocopter EC145T2.
- A proposed armed version of the UH-72 for the US Army's Armed Aerial Scout OH-58D replacement program being offered by EADS and Lockheed Martin.
- An armed military version of the Eurocopter EC145T2 also proposed for the Armed Aerial Scout program. It is equipped with more powerful engines with an extra 200 horsepower each, a fenestron shrouded tail rotor, and a fully digital glass cockpit.
- Crew: 2 pilots
- Capacity: 8 troops or 2 stretchers and medical crew
- Length: 42 ft 7 in (13.03 m)
- Rotor diameter: 36 ft 1 in (11.00 m)
- Height: 11 ft 9 in (3.45 m)
- Disc area: 1,023 ft² (94.98 m²)
- Empty weight: 3,950 lb (1,792 kg)
- Useful load: 3,953 lb (1,793 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 7,903 lb (3,585 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshafts, 738 shp (551 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 145 knots (167 mph, 269 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 133 knots (153 mph, 246 km/h)
- Range: 370 nmi (426 mi, 685 km)
- Service ceiling: 18,000 ft (5,791 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,600 ft/min (8.13 m/s)
- Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
- US Helicopter Armament Subsystems
- U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command
- Eurocopter EC 145
- Agusta A109
- Bell UH-1 Iroquois
- Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin
- HAL Dhruv
- List of active United States military aircraft
- List of helicopters
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- "US Army aircraft", FY2012 budget estimate, p. 43. US Army
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- "From LHX to Comanche". Globalsecurity.org, 25 March 2008.
- "Briefing on the Restructure and Revitalization of Army Aviation". U.S. Department of Defense, 23 February 2004.
- "EADS North America to Offer the UH-145 for the U.S. Army's light utility helicopter (LUH) mission". EADS North America, 24 August 2005.
- "The UH-72A “comes home” to its new Army assignment in Mississippi". EADS North America, 7 June 2008.
- "EADS underscores commitment to U.S. production". Reuters, 9 May 2008.
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- Army Trimming Light Utility Helicopter Program - Aviationweek.com, April 10, 2013
- The Last Of The Lakotas - Strategypage.com, May 29, 2013
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- Armed Scout fact sheet. EADS NA/Lockheed Martin, Retrieved: 4 June 2011.
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- AAS versions. AOL.Defense.com, October 18, 2012
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- Jesmain, Andrew. "DIIG Current Issues No.7: Case Study: The Drivers of a Successful COTS Acquisition". Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), 2009.
- "Sikorsky Contractor Logistics Support" Sikorsky. April 2007
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- "UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter Enters Operational Service with the First Full-equipped US Army Unit" EADS North America, 19 June 2007.
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- Davis, Aaron C. for Associated Press. "New Army chopper overheats". encyclopedia.com, 10 November 2007.
- "UH-72 Lakota: Hot n’ High". defenseindustrydaily.com, 18 November 2007.
- "USMA takes possession of new helicopters". Mid-Hudson News Network, 17 January 2009.
- "Expanding missions for the UH-72A are highlighted at the 100th Lakota delivery ceremony". EADS North America. 4 March 2010. http://www.uh-72a.com/news-feature-story/2010/03-04-2010.asp.
- Tremble, Stephen. "UH-72A crashes off Puerto Rico in first major mishap". Flight International, 22 December 2010.
- "Thailand Seeks Six UH-72A Lakota Helicopters" - Deagel.com, 20 June 2013.
- Thai government approves funds for helicopter procurement - Janes.com, 9 October 2013
- "US Army considers B-model upgrade for UH-72A Lakota fleet". Flight International, 5 March 2013.
- "Scout Helicopter Competitors to Army: It’s Time for a Flyoff". Nationaldefensemagazine.com, December 2012
- "EADS urges US Army to buy new scout helicopter". Flight International
- "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. http://www.flightglobal.com/airspace/media/reports_pdf/emptys/101015/world-air-forces-2013.pdf. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- "U.S. Naval Test Pilot School UH-72A Lakotas have arrived". navy.mil. http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=4287&highlight=uh-72. Retrieved 10-March-2013.
- UH-72A Lakota specifications, American Eurocopter.
- Eurocopter EC 145 Technical Data. Eurocopter
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to UH-72 Lakota.|
- EADS North America UH-72A site
- The Lakota Light Utility Helicopter on US Army site
- AMerican Eurocopter Armed Scout 645 official site
- LUH Program on GlobalSecurity.org
- LUH competition contenders
- "Stateside Lakota deliveries let Black Hawks go to theater". US Army, 22 April 2011.
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