American Eurocopter, the American subsidiary of the Eurocopter Group has been granted production authorization for UH-72A and EC145 helicopters, enabling these rotary-wing aircraft to be U.S.-made for military and civilian customers. Eurocopter is supplying the UH-72A Lakota as the U.S. Army’s new Light Utility Helicopter, via EADS North America as a prime contractor. The civilian version of this helicopter (EC145) has become the rotary-wing aircraft of choice for a growing number of medical airlift, law enforcement and corporate customers. Production authorization for these helicopters was recently granted by the Federal Aviation Administration, enabling deliveries of U.S.-made UH-72As to begin for operational Army units. The first such aircraft is Lakota no. 10, which was delivered on August 27, 2007, from American Eurocopter’s Columbus, Mississippi facility.
The Army has a requirement for up to 322 UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters in a 10-year program with a total life-cycle value of over billion. This contract expands American Eurocopter’s 20-year heritage as a supplier to numerous state and local US law enforcement agencies.
"Adding the UH-72A/EC145 to our production certificate is another important step in developing American Eurocopter’s capabilities for operators in the U.S. marketplace," explained American Eurocopter President & CEO Marc Paganini. "We received the FAA production certificate in 2005 for the AS350 B2 and B3 helicopters, which are also being built as U.S.-made aircraft at Columbus for the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, law enforcement agencies and other users across the country."
To accommodate its UH-72A industrial activity, the Eurocopter Columbus factory is expanding to a total covered area of 325,000 sq. ft, and its workforce is growing to approximately 330 employees. The construction of two large new buildings is being completed, creating additional area for the Lakota’s assembly hall, flight line, paint shop, warehouse, administrative offices, flight operations and flight test engineering.
The Columbus site is located adjacent to Golden Triangle Regional Airport, and was inaugurated in 2004. It began operations with a staff of 44 persons and initial 92,000-sq. feet of facilities for helicopter assembly, parts manufacturing and administrative offices.
The production of the UH-72A/EC145 originated at Eurocopter’s Donauworth, Germany plant, with aircraft for the U.S. market delivered as kits to Mississippi, for reassembly. American Eurocopter is now able to phase in the manufacturing, build-up, flight test and certification of UH-72As/EC145s at Columbus and deliver these helicopters to U.S. customers with full U.S. certification.
UH-72As have been operational with the U.S. Army since earlier this year. The initial Lakotas are assigned to the National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, California, and the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
The Army’s Light Utility Helicopter fleet will be used primarily within the U.S. for homeland security operations, medical evacuation, passenger/logistics transportation and drug interdiction missions. Many of them will be provided to Army National Guard units in locations throughout the country, allowing older-generation helicopters to be retired and freeing up larger rotary-wing aircraft for assignment to other duties.
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