The US Army has signed for a further 15 Airbus Helicopters UH-72A Lakota training and support platforms to add to the more than 450 already ordered.
A USD122.7 million contract for the additional civil variant Eurocopter EC145 helicopters was announced by the Department of Defense (DoD) on 3 March. The helicopters are scheduled to be delivered by 31 August 2022. By the time deliveries are complete, the US Army will have received 478 Lakota helicopters under the current programme of record.
The service procured the Lakota to free up front-line types such as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and to enable the phasing out of older types such as the Bell UH-1 'Huey' and OH-58A Kiowa Warrior. The Lakota comes in seven configurations for missions including training, border security, search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, VIP transport, and range support.
As noted by Airbus Helicopters, these latest platforms to be contracted will be delivered in the baseline training configuration. The growth in the overall Lakota fleet will enable the type to be more extensively used in support of civil defence missions, while not affecting the army's training requirements.
While the Lakota was procured for non-combat behind-the-lines operations, the DoD did look at options for giving them a more operational role. However, a Pentagon study into the issue found that modifications to the fleet to make them suitable for use in combat environments were unaffordable, and that they would add weight that "would significantly decrease aircraft performance".
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