The U.S. Army awarded a $27.8 million contract to Airbus to upgrade the Army National Guard Security & Support Battalion Mission Equipment Package (MEP). (Photo: Airbus)
Airbus recently took home a $27.8 million contract to upgrade dozens of Army National Guard UH-72A Lakotas with new avionics to enhance the helicopter’s reconnaissance mission capabilities.
At least 50 UH-72s flown by Army National Guard Security & Support Battalions received the Mission Equipment Package (MEP) upgrades under the contract, Airbus said in a statement. The Army has not formally announced the contract as of Wednesday.
The planned upgrades should expand the Lakota’s ability to conduct daylight and nighttime operations with an advanced moving map, upgraded digital interfaces, new monitors, an airborne mission management system, and other system improvements, Airbus said.
Airbus is upgrading the mission system associated with the UH-72A Mission Equipment Package, not the overall avionics suite, company spokesperson Cathy Wilkinson told Avionics. The update includes upgraded moving maps, improved mission monitors (both in the cockpit and rear console), an improved mission management computer, and improvements to other elements of the mission system to make the role of the MEP aircraft more efficient for the aircrew.
The work includes replacement of existing mission monitors, the installation of an improved mission computer, and replacement of other interface controls, and it will include other maintenance actions required as contained within the contract, Wilkinson said.
"This is not a full tear down, and we anticipate the MEP upgrade will take about four months per aircraft," she said.
“This award provides pilots with significantly increased functionality and capability to carry out today’s demanding missions, further enhancing the Lakota’s value as an ISR asset for the National Guard," said Scott Tumpak, vice president of military business for Airbus U.S. Space and Defense.
The UH-72A is a twin-engine light utility helicopter used for a wide range of military operations including border patrol, medical evacuation, and troop and cargo transport. Versions of it are flown by the Navy, Army, and National Guard. It also serves as the Army’s primary training helicopter.
The UH-72A comes standard with a vehicle and engine multifunction display and night vision goggle (NVG) compatible glass cockpit, which “synthesizes flight and vehicle information, increasing situational awareness and reducing crew workload,” according to Airbus.
UH-72As with MEP-equipped cockpits are specifically designed for the National Guard’s homeland security-related missions including, counter-drug and border security. The National Guard uses its unarmed Lakotas for a variety of other domestic missions, including disaster response, humanitarian assistance, VIP transport, and more.
The Army contract will retrofit up to 50 Security & Support Battalion aircraft of 107 UH-72As the National Guard has deployed throughout the U.S.
Airbus will carry out the retrofit work at its Columbus, Mississippi helicopter production facility, where more than 480 UH-72A and UH-72B Lakota, both based on the commercial H145, have been delivered to the US Army since 2006. Among other enhancements, the UH-72B features the Airbus Helionix avionics suite, which sports a 4-axis autopilot, three large electronic displays, NVG compatibility, and a first limit indicator that highlights the appropriate engine instrument data for the pilot in one indicator.
In 2018, the U.S. Army awarded two contracts to Airbus Helicopters to deliver 51 UH-72A Lakotas.