The US Army has taken delivery of the first training version of the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter from Airbus Group at its production facility in Columbus, Mississippi, US.
The helicopter will join seven Lakotas that have already been modified to the training configuration and deployed to Fort Rucker in Alabama, in preparation for the Lakota’s formal introduction into the training curriculum in early 2016.
A total of 411 Lakotas have been ordered to date by the US Department of Defense, of which 400 are scheduled to be used by the army.
With the latest delivery, the company has successfully handed over 332 aircraft to the customer.
Airbus Group chairman and chief executive officer Allan McArtor said: "For a programme to succeed in the current budget environment, affordability and reliable programme performance must accompany mission flexibility.
"Since awarding the contract in 2006, the army has managed this programme unfailingly on cost and on schedule, and we’re proud to see that record continue as we deliver the latest configuration of this versatile, multi-mission aircraft."
Airbus Helicopters president and executive officer Marc Paganini said: "We’re making the necessary important investments to ensure a successful transition of the Lakota into training operations at Fort Rucker."
The army plans to have an initial-entry rotary wing training fleet of 187 Lakotas, made up of a mix of new deliveries and already in-service aircraft reconfigured for the training mission.
An unarmed utility militarised version of the EC-145 helicopter, the UH-72A Lakota is primarily used for search-and-rescue, medical evacuations, homeland security, VIP transport and disaster response and relief, as well as combat flight and pilot sustainment training missions.
Currently operated by the US Army and National Guard, as well as the US Naval Test Pilot School, the helicopter can also be used for general support and counter-narcotics operations.
The helicopters have also been ordered by the Royal Thai Army through the US Government’s foreign military sales programme, and are scheduled to be supplied within the coming months.
Image: Airbus has delivered the first training version of the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter to the US Army. Photo: Copyright Airbus Helicopters 2015.