USA — Lakota fleet more than 200 strong approaching 100K flight hours

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Army’s newest air­craft, the UH-72A Lako­ta, is approach­ing 100,000 flight hours, and main­tains one of the high­est mis­sion-capa­ble rates among Army air­craft.

The Army’s newest air­craft, the UH-72A Lako­ta, is approach­ing 100,000 flight hours, and main­tains one of the high­est mis­sion capa­ble rate among Army air­craft.
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The Army expects to buy a total of 345 of the air­craft, and the ser­vice has just tak­en deliv­ery of 209 so far. 

“The real suc­cess sto­ry for us: it’s been on sched­ule [and] it’s met its cost tar­gets per­haps bet­ter than any oth­er avi­a­tion pro­gram we have got that’s active right now,” said Col. Thomas Todd, project man­ag­er for Army util­i­ty heli­copters, dur­ing an April 3 press brief­ing at the Army Avi­a­tion Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­ca con­fer­ence in Nashville. 

The Lako­ta is a slight­ly mod­i­fied ver­sion of the manufacturer’s com­mer­cial EC-145 air­craft, and serves most­ly inside the Unit­ed States, though it has served in Haiti as part of relief oper­a­tions there, Todd said. Right now, the Lako­ta is being used in 42 of 50 states. Only a third of the air­craft are head­ed for active-duty units. The remain­der are bound for Army Nation­al Guard units. 

In the field, Todd said, the Lako­ta has main­tained remark­ably high reli­a­bil­i­ty rates. 

“It main­tains con­sis­tent­ly 90 per­cent oper­a­tional avail­abil­i­ty rates,” Todd said. “We obvi­ous­ly take a lot of pride in the fact that 90 per­cent means [a com­man­der] gets nine out of 10 to fly. It makes that unit com­man­der, no mat­ter where they are and what mis­sion they are per­form­ing, more effective.” 

The Lako­ta can be con­fig­ured with mis­sion equip­ment pack­ages to sup­port med­ical evac­u­a­tion mis­sions, VIP sup­port or and secu­ri­ty and sup­port. While most mil­i­tary air­craft deal with mil­i­tary threats, the Lako­ta, with the S&S mis­sion-equip­ment pack­age, was devel­oped to work counter-nar­cotics on the south­west bor­der. Along the Mex­i­can bor­der, for instance, 11 Lako­ta air­craft have racked up 700 fly­ing hours work­ing the South­west Bor­der Mis­sion there out of oper­at­ing loca­tions in Lara­do and Har­lin­gen, Texas. 

In a time of con­strained bud­gets, Todd said that the Lako­ta also deliv­ers on main­te­nance costs. As a light util­i­ty heli­copter, the UH-72A Lako­ta was pur­sued as a replace­ment for the OH-58A and C Kiowas as well as the UH‑1 Iro­quois. Repair parts for the Lako­ta are less expen­sive than for the old­er air­craft, and are deliv­ered quicker. 

“When we com­pare our parts fill rate is high­er, and our parts cost or our con­tracts cost is eas­i­ly 30–40 per­cent less,” Todd said. “That’s a huge mea­sur­ing stick for us, in these resources con­strained times.” 

U.S. Army 

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