The U.S. Army equipped its first
unit with its latest helicopter, the UH-72A ("Lakota"). The Air Ambulance
Detachment at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California received
six of the new helicopters. The UH-72A will replace the UH-60 for a lot of jobs
that don't require a helicopter quite that large (about a third larger).
Medical evacuation is one such job.
The army is buying 332 UH-72A (formerly called the UH-145) helicopters, for about nine
million dollars each, from European firm EADS. The UH-72A is a militarized
version of the EC145, a helicopter very popular with law enforcement agencies,
including the FBI. The UH-72A purchase is a side effect of the cancellation of
the Comanche helicopter, which was perceived as too expensive and complex for
army needs. The UH-72A will mainly replace the aging UH-1 helicopters, which
are being retired use by the American military. The UH-72A has about the same
capacity as the UH-1, despite its smaller size. The 3.6 ton UH-72A has a top
speed of 260 kilometers an hour and a max range of 660 kilometers. Average
endurance per sortie is about two hours. The helicopter has a crew of two, and
can carry up to eight passengers, or about three-quarters of a ton of cargo or
weapons. The EC145 was introduced five years ago, and has been very popular
with its users. About fifty UH-72As will be delivered in the next two years.