- Associated Press - Saturday, March 10, 2018

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - The U.S. Army is awarding a $273 million contract to a Mississippi helicopter maker for 35 aircraft.

The Army announced the contract with Airbus Helicopters on Thursday for more UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters.

French-based Airbus has more than 200 employees in Columbus assembling helicopters.

The Army says Airbus was the only bidder, and the work is projected to be completed in March 2021. The Army is paying $136.6 million for work in the 2017 and 2018 budget years.

Mississippi’s two U.S. senators, Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, as well as U.S. Rep Trent Kelly, say in a statement that Congress is negotiating funding for the helicopters. The House has approved $167 million, while the Senate currently calls for $196 million. Negotiations could conclude in the next two weeks.

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