The first shipment of UH-72A Lakota helicopters began arriving at the Army’s flight training facility at Fort Rucker, Ala., during the week of March 23, according to Army spokesperson Lisa Eichhorn. They will soon become the primary rotorcraft trainer for Army, thus beginning the phase-out out of the TH-67 Creek, the military designation for the Bell 206B Jet Ranger, which is no longer in production.
Switching from the TH-67 to the UH-72A represents the first time primary Army rotorcraft training will take place in a twin-engine helicopter, a move many see as practical in a military community comprised mainly of multi-engine aircraft. But according to Eichhorn, it could still take as long as 2019 before the Lakota is fully integrated into the Army’s training program.
“We’re making the necessary important investments to ensure a successful transition of the Lakota into training operations at Fort Rucker,” said Marc Paganini, president and CEO of Airbus Helicopter. “We’re honored that future Army aviators will begin their flying careers at the controls of the Lakota.”
The Lakota is not new to military service. Under both its previous EADS banner and its current Airbus Helicopters moniker, the manufacturer’s plant in Columbus, Miss., has been building the ship to fly in utility and medevac roles for the Army National Guard since 2008.