WASHINGTON — The US unit of Europe's Airbus Group was awarded a contract modification worth $220.5 million to build 41 more UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters for the US Army, planned as flight trainers at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
A service budget official said at a roundtable with reporters earlier this month that next year marks the last of the Lakota fleet for the active Army. The president's budget request for fiscal 2016, released Feb, 3, included $187 million for 28 more helicopters. The budget request indicates no additional funding for 2017 and beyond.
As part of the Army's aviation restructure, the plan is to divest from the TH-67 Creek training helicopters, made by Bell Helicopter, and replace them with the Lakota. The Lakota is replacing the Army's OH-58 Kiowa Warrior A and C models, made by Bell.
The president's budget request includes $5.7 million to support an increase in flying hours associated with increased student loads at the Army National Guard aviation training sites and the fielding of the Lakota to replace the Kiowa.
The contract announced Feb. 12 runs through July 31, 2017, and also covers the associated Airborne Radio Communications 231 Rradio communications system, according to Airbus spokesman Jamie Darcy.
The contracts brings the total number of Lakota helicopters ordered to 411 — . Four hundred are 400 for the Army or National Guard, five are for the US Naval Test Pilot School and six that will go to Thailand through the foreign military sales program. Airbus had delivered 331 of the aircraft as of Friday, Darcy said.
The 41 aircraft are all to be built at the Airbus facility in Columbus, Mississippi. The Army had used the Lakota, a militarized version of the commercial EC145, for non-combat purposes: homeland security, drug interdiction, general support, logistics and medical evacuation.
A proposal to send Israel $1 billion for the Iron Dome air defense system has been cut out of a stopgap government funding bill, meant to avoid a government shutdown after Sept. 30, in order to ease its passage in the House.