- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - The U.S. Army has exercised $65.8 million in contract options for 12 UH-72A Lakota helicopters and associated mission equipment packages from Airbus Defense and Space in Columbus.

Since 2006, Airbus has delivered almost 350 Lakotas to the Army and Navy and for foreign military sales customers.

The UH-72A is used for a broad range of active Army and Army National Guard missions, including training, search and rescue, medical evacuation, border security, command and control, VIP transport and general utility.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/1O6MhQh ) the 12 aircraft on this latest contract option will be delivered starting in August of 2017, configured for the Army as initial entry rotary-wing trainers. This year the Army has fielded more than 50 Lakotas to Fort Rucker, Alabama, in preparation for the UH-72A’s formal introduction into the training curriculum in early fiscal year 2016.

The Army’s ultimate plans call for 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.

Airbus Helicopters CEO Chris Emerson said that almost half the employees who build the Lakota in Columbus are military veterans. Some still fly the aircraft as part of their service in the National Guard, he added.

“Everyone on that production line takes a great amount of pride in their unbroken record of delivering on their commitments, and we hope they’ll be building Lakotas for many years to come.”

The twin-engine UH-72A is known for its power, stability, and agility. Its glass cockpit is compatible with night vision goggles. It has the lowest cost to buy, own and operate of any U.S. military helicopter in production, Airbus said.

Opened in 2004, Airbus’ 325,000-square-foot Columbus facility also produces the AS350 B2/B3 AStar commercial helicopter.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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