The Airbus Helicopters UH-72 "Lakota" Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) was introduced with U.S. military forces in 2007. The aircraft became an offshoot of the Army's LHX (Light Helicopter, Experimental) program of the 1980s which also produced the since-cancelled Sikorsky RAH-66 "Comanche" light attack / reconnaissance platform. With the cancellation of said system, some of its remaining funds were reinvested to form a light utility model which became the UH-72. The UH-72 platform is based on the existing Eurocopter EC145 model introduced in 2002. Since production of the UH-72 began, some 300 examples have been delivered. Assembly is through Airbus Helicopters (formerly American Eurocopter) and the Lakota now serves the U.S. Army and Navy.
The adoption of the EC145 by the U.S. Army marks the first time it has procured a civilian market-borne helicopter platform for military service. The move was logistically-based, allowing for far lower overhead by utilizing an existing, proven system with off-the-shelf parts capability. It is intended as a replacement for the Bell OH-58 "Kiowa" series of light helicopters as well as the venerable Bell UH-1 "Huey" medium transport models.
The Lakota takes on a decidedly European look with its well-rounded body and heavily-glazed frontal section. Cockpit and cabin windows are large for increased situational awareness. A typical crew is two and passenger seating can be for up to eight or two medical litters (the latter in the MEDEVAC role). Access to the cabin is ample as the raised tail stem allows a "clamshell" style door assembly to be fitted along the aft fuselage. Additionally, there are sliding side doors for conventional entry / exit. The helicopter makes use of landing skids as opposed to more complex retracting wheeled landing legs. The main rotor sits close atop the cabin roof with an unprotected tail rotor fitted along the portside of the tail fin.
Power is served through 2 x Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshaft engines developing 738 shaft horsepower each while driving a four-blade main rotor and two-blade tail rotor. Performance includes a maximum speed of 167 miles per hour with a cruising speed near 155 miles per hour. Range is out to 425 miles and service ceilings peak around 18,000 feet. Rate-of-climb is 1,600 feet per minute. Dimensions include a length of 42.6 feet with rotor diameter of 36 feet and height of 11.8 feet.
Operators beyond the U.S. Army and Navy now include Thailand which has six systems on order (2015). Another nine units were announced for procurement by the Southeast Asian nation.
Variants include the UH-72A which is the militarized form of the EC145 model. The UH-72B is being proposed as an upgraded A-model based on the newly arriving EC145 T2 model featuring uprated engines and upgraded avionics with new Fenestron shrouded tail rotor. The AAS-72X is another proposed mark as an armored light attack platform to replace the armed Bell OH-57D Kiowa Warrior in the same role. The AAS-72X+ is similar in product goal, though based on the newer EC145 T2 product model.
The U.S. Army is planning to field some 187 total Lakota helicopters as part of a new training program that already features fifty of the aircraft in 2015. These are replacing outgoing Bell TH-67 (Model 209) light helicopters in the same role. Sources also state a U.S. Army grand total of 338 Lakota helicopters and a United States Navy grand total of five helicopters.
July 2015 - The United States Army announced an order for sixteen more UH-72A helicopters from Airbus.
October 2017 - Airbus Helicopters has delivered its 400th UH-72 Lakota to the United States Army.
December 2018 - Airbus Helicopters is scheduled to deliver the last of the original 423 UH-72A models to the United States Army in February of 2018.
January 2018 - The United States Army announced that it will move to procure an additional 35 UH-72A models.
March 2018 - The U.S. Army has officially secured an order for thirty-five UH-72A helicopters.
September 2018 - The United States Army has ordered eleven additional UH-72A helicopters to be used for pilot training.
September 2020 - The United States Army will begin accepting a new-form Lakota, the UH-72B from Airbus Helicopters, into service in 2021. These will be the first to feature Fenestron-shrouded tail rotor units. As many as 17 examples are on order for the service in this guise.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC)
Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
✓Special-Mission: Search & Rescue (SAR)
Ability to locate and extract personnel from areas of potential harm or peril (i.e. downed airmen in the sea).
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
42.7 ft (13.03 m)
36.1 ft (11.00 m)
11.3 ft (3.45 m)
3,951 lb (1,792 kg)
7,904 lb (3,585 kg)
+3,953 lb (+1,793 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Airbus Helicopters UH-72A Lakota production variant)
2 x Turbomeca Arriel IE2 turboshaft engines delivering 738 horsepower each driving four-bladed main rotor unit and Fenestron-shrouded (or open) tail rotor unit.
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