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21st Cav welcomes Lakotas into fleet

Email   Print   Share By Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
May 10, 2012 | News
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An LUH-72A Lakota helicopter sits on the airfield outside 21st Cav. Bde.’s hangar at Robert Grey Army Airfield. The brigade received two Lakotas Friday to eventually replace the current UH-1 Huey helicopters that are being phased out of Army service. Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
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The cockpit in the Lakota offers dual digital displays and some of Army aviation’s latest technology. The aircraft can be flown single or dual pilot, depending on flight conditions Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
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A side view of the Lakota shows the compact size of the light utility helicopter. Its composite frame is in stark contrast to the brigade’s current fleet of Hueys. Now, 21st Cav. Bde. is in possession of some of the Army’s newest helicopters, as well as the oldest still flying. Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
Fort Hood’s Apache training unit, 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat), added a new airframe to its inventory Friday with two LUH-72A Lakota helicopters.

Designed for general support and MEDEVAC missions, the Lakota is used by law enforcement and as an air ambulance in the civilian sector, 21st Cav. Bde. Commander Col. Neil Hersey said.

“It’s well-proven in the civilian world,” he added.

Light utility helicopters that can be single or dual-pilot depending on flight conditions, the Lakotas will eventually replace the brigade’s UH-1 Huey helicopters as the Army continues to phase out the iconic airframe.

The brigade expects to keep the Hueys at least through September.

Armywide, the helicopter also will take some of the pressure off the Army’s other utility helicopters for garrison missions.

“The LUH is being fielded in CONUS to take some of the workload off the UH-60s (Black Hawk helicopters),” Hersey said.

Fort Hood is not the first to receive the helicopters. That distinction went to major training centers such at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., as well as for use in reserve-component MEDEVAC units, Hersey added.

The Army accepted the first Lakota into service in December 2006. In total, the Army is expected to receive 345 Lakotas through 2017, primarily to National Guard units, according to the helicopter’s manufacturer, EADS North

America.

Hersey said the Army is about midway through the fielding process.

Hersey and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jimmy Green, III Corps Standardization Pilot, flew the Lakotas from the assembly plant at Columbus, Miss., to Fort Hood last week. They are among the eight pilots in the brigade qualified to fly the new airframe, which does not require a crew chief.

Lakotas cannot carry as many troops as Black Hawks or Hueys, or lift as much as the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, but the LUH will fill the brigade’s utility and transport needs.

“The LUH will meet our mission,” Hersey said.

That mission within the 21st Cav. includes VIP transport, carrying troops and other requirements based on need at Fort Hood.

Preparations to receive the Lakotas began last fall, Hersey said. Maintenance on the airframes will be performed by contract.

Lighter and faster than the brigade’s fleet of Hueys, the Lakotas are built from composite fiber with flight stabilization similar to the UH-60. The all-glass cockpit offers some of the latest technology, and the cargo space lost with the transition from UH-1s to the LUH-72A will be minimal, Green said.

For the pilots, there is an added bonus.

“It’s fun to fly,” Green said. “It’s a pilot’s airplane.”
 
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