US Army National Guard’s UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters

The US Army National Guard (ANG) will receive a crucial downlink system for its UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) from Cobham as part of the Security and Support (S&S) Battalion Mission Equipment Package (MEP) programme.

The package includes a dual channel, high resolution Cobham tactical downlink system, featuring both FM and COFDM links, and will help the ground based agents or National Guardsmen view images from helicopter’s camera using handheld receivers.

Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance vice president Steve Schaefer said the tactical downlink system has already been used by the Louisiana National Guard in a counter-drug operation.

"We provide the crucial link between the ground and air, helping increase the safety of the agents on the ground and enabling forces to stay one step ahead of dangerous and tense situations," Schaefer added.

As part of the S&S programme, the ANG is scheduled to receive a total of 108 upgraded Lakotas from EADS North America to provide support for law enforcement operations, search and rescue (SAR), homeland defence, drug interdiction and border patrol missions across the US.

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Cobham Aerospace Communications has also been awarded a contract to supply its Flexcomm communications system for 39 UH-72A LUHs, as part of the Lakota MEP.

Uniquely scalable and flexible, the Flexcomm suite includes an RT-5000 radio management unit, an RT-5000 transceiver, as well as an antenna/tuner package.

The US Army has ordered a total of 345 Lakota helicopters under a Defence Acquisition Category (ACAT) I programme that will run through 2015.

EADS has already delivered 198 Lakotas to the US Army, along with five H-72A versions to the US Navy for test pilot training purposes.

The twin engine helicopters are also scheduled to replace the ageing OH-58 and UH-1 rotary-wing aircraft, while allowing UH-60 Black Hawks to participate in combat missions.

Image: Two US Army National Guard’s UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters stationed in Mississippi, US. Photo: N/A.