Warplanes: Huey Finally Bows Out


November 15, 2011: After sixty years, the UH-1 (Huey) helicopter is getting completely replaced. It's taken several types of helicopters to do it. First there was the larger UH-60 in the 1980s. But now the U.S. Army is buying UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters [PHOTO]. The twin engine UH-72A ("Lakota"), previously called the UH-145, costs about $9 million each, although the cost can be higher depending on the accessories. For example, UH-72As were recently equipped with a Security & Support Mission Equipment Package so they could operate with Security & Support Aviation battalions. These units are part of the U.S. Army National Guard and are for, as their name implies, security and support missions. In the United States, these are in support of police or emergency functions. Overseas, they would be used for peacekeeping operations.

The S&S Mission Equipment Package (MEP) added an infrared night video camera with an eight kilometer (5 mile) range. This system can take still photos or streaming video, which can be transmitted to ground units. The video can also be captured and stored on the aircraft. The MEP also contains longer range radios, the ability to communicate on many police frequencies. The MEP also installs touch-screen monitors, GPS software that can provide street addresses and a high intensity (30 million candle power) search light.

The U.S. Army is buying 345 UH-72A helicopters, from European firm EADS. Nearly 200 have already been delivered. 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 seven years ago. Comanche was perceived as too expensive and complex. The UH-72A will mainly replace the few remaining UH-1 helicopters, which are being retired because of old age.

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 eight years ago, and has been very popular with its users. Meanwhile, many elderly UH-1s continue to serve all over the world.



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