April 10, 2013
Credit: U.S. ARMY
The U.S. Army is halting procurement of the Light Utility Helicopter program after fiscal 2014, cutting the number of UH-72s Lakotas it planned to buy by just over 30.
The Army, which has said it would buy 346 UH-72 Lakotas from EADS North America (EADS NA) through 2016, has cut the proposed fiscal 2014 procurement to only 10 aircraft from an original 31. The service also dropped the final ten aircraft from its fiscal 2015 plan, for a net reduction of 31 aircraft from the overall buy.
The move ends a critical Pentagon contract for the European defense manufacturer, which has so far delivered 249 Lakotas to U.S. Army and National Guard units in the continental United States and overseas.
On a platform level, the cut leaves EADS North America with the HC-144 Ocean Sentry program, 14 of which have been delivered from a planned total of 36.
In a statement, EADS North America CEO Sean O’Keefe said the company would “fight for the opportunity” to deliver the full program complement of Lakotas to the armed services, citing both its programmatic success and veteran-heavy workforce as key elements to consider.
“During times of budgetary pressure, an extremely successful program like the UH-72A Lakota—with its demonstrated low cost and unbroken record of on-time and on-cost deliveries—ought to be the last program slated for termination,” O’Keefe said.
He also noted that more than half of the Lakota workforce is drawn from the ranks of U.S. military veterans.
Privately, EADS managers are disappointed because they had hoped the Lakota line could be kept open and “hot” for a possible decision on the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program. EADS NA is offering its AAS-72X+ version of the UH-72 for the AAS requirement to replace the Kiowa Warrior, but the company says it will lobby hard to at least finish the Lakota program.
The initial selection of the UH-72, a militarized version of the Eurocopter EC145 in 2006, was hailed as a huge success for Eurocopter and EADS. The type defeated competitors from established U.S. suppliers to meet the Light Utility Helicopter requirement replacing H-58 Kiowas and H-1 Hueys in National Guard units and other U.S. Army units. As well as performing the utility role, the Lakota is also used for the medevac mission, search and rescue, security and border patrol as well as training. The U.S. Navy also uses a handful of aircraft for its Test Pilots School.