Much to its relief, and not after a small amount of hard lobbying, the U.S. Congress has decided to fund the acquisition of 20 UH-72A Lakotas from Airbus Helicopters. Last year, the Department of Defense (DoD) made a budgetary decision to cancel the 21 of the 31 Lakotas remaining from a long-running acquisition program that had seen 290 aircraft delivered by Airbus Group’s U.S. subsidiary on time and on cost.
Whether this ties into U.S. Army Aviation’s recently revealed plans to attack its sequestration issues by divesting itself of its Fort Rucker, Ala.-based Bell TH-67 training helicopters and replacing them with UH-72As remains to be seen. However, the result is a windfall for the Airbus Group and for the Columbus, Miss., plant where the aircraft have been produced. The workforce comprises more than 50 percent U.S. military veterans. As part of Army Aviation’s sequestration plan, Lakotas already delivered to some active and reserve units will be pulled back into the training role, although the decision will not affect those delivered to those patrolling the U.S. border with Mexico. Lakotas are also being used to train Navy, Marine Corps and Army test pilots at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. According to Airbus Helicopters, the unit cost of each UH-72A is $5.5 million.