The Royal Thai Army is reportedly planning to acquire additional UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters from the US.
Royal Thai Army chief Udomdej Sitabutr was quoted by Bangkok Post as saying that the helicopter is part of the plan to upgrade the helicopter fleet in 2016.
The army budget will primarily be spent on the purchase of new helicopters and the training of new pilots next year, Sitabutr added. He refused to disclose the name of the helicopter variant and the number being considered.
However, an unnamed army source had earlier said that the army is interested in the UH-72A Lakota, an unarmed utility military version of the EC145 helicopter.
Thailand ordered six and nine UH-72A helicopters from Airbus Helicopters at an estimated cost of $77m and $89m in June and September 2014, respectively, to replace its ageing Vietnam-era aircraft fleet.
According to the Bangkok Post, the Royal Thai Army’s existing helicopter fleet includes 40 Bell 212 choppers and nearly the same number of UH-1 Huey aircraft.
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.
Powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshaft engines, it can also be used for general support and counter-narcotics operations.
It is currently operational with the US Army, navy and army national guard.
Image: A US Army UH-72A light utility helicopter at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., US. Photo: courtesy of staff sgt Teddy Wade.