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National Guard Gets First Lakota Helicopters

Jun 09, 2008

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 9, 2008) - The National Guard received its first two UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters last week, marked by a ceremony Saturday in Tupelo, Miss.

The 1/114th Service Battalion in Tupelo showcased its two Lakota helicopters Saturday to a crowd of Soldiers, Civilians and city officials. Brig. Gen. Bill Freeman, adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard, helped unveil the new aircraft.

The Lakota is a commercial aircraft built for the military with slight modifications to conduct general support tasks in non-combat environments such as civil search and rescue, evacuation, counter-drug and limited civil command and control operations through Homeland Security.

Since the Army took delivery of its first UH-72A Lakota in November 2006, its builder, EADS North America, has delivered a total of 25 helicopters. The Lakotas have been fielded to the National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Fort Irwin, Calif., to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Flight Detachment at Fort Eustis, Va. The Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Ala., also has Lakotas, and the Eastern Army Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., received one last week.

Plans are to field a total of 345 Lakota helicopters by 2017, and Product Manager Lt. Col. Jim Brashear said 60 of those are already under contract. He said 10 more Lakota Helicopters should be fielded to NTC next month. Detachment C, 1-114th Aviation of the Louisiana National Guard should also receive the Lakota next month, he said. Next will be the Florida National Guard in Jacksonville, Fla. Then two are scheduled to be fielded to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in October.

A number of modifications have recently been approved for the Lakota. A medevac kit will allow Soldiers to mount medical gear on the wall of the Lakota instead of storing it in a canvas bag on the floor of the helicopter. The medevac kit was something that was used on the civilian version of the Lakota air ambulance and Brashear said Soldiers feel the kit provides easier access to life-saving equipment.

Another modification tested last week at Fort Irwin, Calif., was the Engineer Inlet Barrier Filter. This filter keeps dust and other particles from entering the turbine engines and causing damage.

"We took the aircraft out to NTC and flew it in the dirt," Brashear said, adding that the filter performed even better than expected.

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