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U.S. Army Hopes for Spring Demo of Armed Aerial Scout

Mar. 1, 2012 - 08:22PM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   Comments
Lakota Helicopters to U.S. Army
Lakota Helicopters to U.S. Army: Ceremony for the delivery of the 200th UH-72A Lakota helicopter to U.S. Army at the American Eurocopter factory in Columbus, Miss. (March 1, 2012)
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EADS North America subsidiary American Eurocopter delivered the 200th UH-72A Lakota to the U.S. Army on March 1. / Marcus Weisgerber / Staff

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COLUMBUS, Miss. — The U.S. Army is still waiting for the Pentagon to give it the OK to conduct a demonstration of helicopters that could potentially replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior.

The Army hopes to do an Armed Aerial Scout demonstration this spring, but it is awaiting authorization in the form of an acquisition decision memorandum from the Pentagon, said Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation.

Once authorized, the Army is expecting five or six companies to show up.

The demonstration will “inform us is it worth taking the risk to balance within our portfolio and pursue some system out there [that] may have a capability like that,” Crosby told reporters at a March 1 ceremony celebrating the delivery of the 200th EADS UH-72A Lakota helicopter here.

The baseline metric being used for the demo is doing service-life extension of the Kiowa. “We’re looking to see where we can get in the middle, and if we get somewhere in the middle, is it worth what we’re going to have to give up in order to go do that,” Crosby said.

EADS has built three technical demonstrator aircraft based on the UH-72 for the anticipated Armed Aerial Scout demonstration.

“We’re ready to show up any place they want to go, on our dime, and demonstrate what we have,” Sean O’Keefe, chairman and CEO of EADS North America, told reporters on a flight from Washington to the company’s Lakota factory here.

UH-72 Export on the Horizon?

Both Crosby and EADS officials touted foreign interest in the UH-72 Lakota, and other U.S. government agencies are also interested in the helicopter.

“There’s a lot of other opportunities and agencies out there,” Crosby said.

O’Keefe said the company is pursuing foreign military sales of the UH-72 — which is based on the commercial Eurocopter EC-145 — to countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The Army plans to buy 345 UH-72s of various configurations. The aircraft being delivered this week is the first production security and support aircraft, which includes advanced communications and other enhancements.

The facility here builds about 50 aircraft per year and could surge to around 70 helicopters, O’Keefe said.

EADS is “performing brilliantly” on the UH-72 program, Crosby said. “I wish I had other programs that performed as well.”

The general said there have been “discussions about buying additional, but nothing translating to me yet.”

Crosby is the brother of Ralph Crosby, former CEO of EADS North America.

EADS flew Washington-based reporters to its facility in Columbus for the delivery ceremony.

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