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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First UH-72A S&S Joins National Guard

By Douglas Nelms

EADS North America has handed over the initial UH-72A Lakota in the Security and Support (S&S) configuration to the Mississippi National Guard’s Company C, 1st of the 114th Security and Support Battalion. This week’s entry into service follows the official rollout for the National Guard, Army and industry leadership in early November, further expanding the roles being played the Active Army and National Guard’s newest light utility helicopter (LUH).

The new model with the S&S mission equipment package (MEP) will be dedicated solely to National Guard units to provide states with a greater capability to support civil law enforcement and Homeland Security missions, according to Lt. Col. David Bristol, the Army’s product manager for the UH-72A program.

Bristol told Rotor & Wing at the AUSA Meeting & Exhibition in October that the National Guard has already started using the LUH for recent national disasters, with UH-72As from the Florida and Mississippi National Guards sent to Haiti for the relief mission there. Guard units are also repositioning the aircraft around high-risk areas based on threat analysis.
The MEP for the S&S-configured Lakota includes a centerline electro-optical infrared sensor, searchlight, analog/digital video downlink, rear observers console with a 15-inch display, an enhanced tactical communications suite, an onboard digital video recorder, 10.4-inch displays and a video management system. The aircraft will also have a GPS address locator with a moving map.

A total of 100 UH-72As are scheduled to receive the S&S configuration. Of those, 16 will be retrofitted from current models. Seven states—Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Arkansas—have been selected to receive the initial deliveries, with crews being trained at Madison County Airport in Huntsville, Ala. “The crews come for two weeks, get trained on the S&S package, then they go back to their units,” Bristol noted. EADS (prime contractor on the program) is performing the retrofits at the American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss., where the UH-72As are assembled.

The Army has also finished the package allowing the aircraft to be used at the combat training centers, with two configurations. The first is the opposition’s force, painted in camouflage to represent the enemy, and the second is the observer control variant for controlling the movement on the battlefield and reporting back to the appropriate combat training centers.
Combat training is being conducted at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. Bristol emphasized that the LUHs are being used strictly as combat trainers, and that the UH-72A is not designated as a combat aircraft. EADS North America has received orders for a total of 237 UH-72As through October 2011, from a full program that calls for 345 aircraft through 2015.
Related: EADS Adds Mission Equipment to Lakotas

More: Military Helicopter News

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