The UH-72A Lakota is flown by the US Army and National Guard for a wide variety of missions. (James Darcy/EADS North America)
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has cleared the sale of six UH-72A Lakota helicopters to Thailand, marking a potential first international sale of the EADS-designed platform.
The potential sale, worth an estimated cost of $77 million, was announced June 21 on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States, by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in Southeast Asia,” the announcement read.
“This proposed sale will contribute to Thailand’s goal to upgrade and modernize its military forces with a new light utility helicopter capable of meeting requirements for rotary-wing transportation, while further enhancing greater interoperability between Thailand the U.S., and among other allies. Thailand will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.”
“This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.”
Since EADS began producing the Lakota in 2006, the company has delivered over 260 of the helicopters to the US Army and National Guard for use in a wide variety of missions, including search and rescue, homeland security, and MEDEVAC.
But the Lakota has been a victim in recent budget battles, which saw the Army reduce its planned purchase of 31 helicopters in fiscal 2014 to 10. The company loudly protested on Capitol Hill, and on June 7, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee included an extra $135 million to buy back those 21 utility choppers. The Senate has yet to take up the bill.
Given the uncertainty about the Lakota’s domestic future, entering the international market could be a potential game-changer for the program.
“The significance of the sale isn’t just the six aircraft, but also the potential for follow-on opportunities, both for Thailand and obviously for a number of other potential customers among allied nations,” James Darcy, EADS spokesman, said.
While declining to name other countries interested in the platform, Darcy said there are “a number” of different opportunities for future international sales.
“The versatility for international customers is obviously very interesting,” Darcy said.