Mississippi Plant Hatches 1st Of Army's New Copters

December 13th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Mississippi Plant Hatches 1st Of Army's New Copters

Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger
December 12, 2006
Much of light-utility chopper order, worth $2.2 billion, will be built at 85,000-square-foot Columbus facility
By Holbrook Mohr, Associated Press
The first of the Army's newest helicopters lifted off at a Mississippi plant on Monday, with officials saying the UH-72A will save lives during catastrophes and free up other equipment for combat missions.
American Eurocopter Corp. was awarded a $2.2 billion contract in July for a fleet of 322 light utility helicopters, many of which will be built at the 85,000-square-foot EADS North America plant in Columbus.
About 200 of the UH-72A Lakotas - formerly called the UH-145 - will go to National Guard units, the country's primary responders to disasters like Hurricane Katrina, said Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff.
The military had been looking for a replacement for the UH-1 and OH-58 helicopters used by Guard and Army forces and directed money from a contract for Comanche helicopters to the purchase of Lakotas, Cody said.
The Pentagon in 2004 scrapped a multibillion dollar contract with Sikorski Aircraft for the Comanche after auditors found the program was way behind schedule and some $3.7 billion over budget.
Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, said the need for a small, versatile helicopter became more apparent immediately after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when choppers plucked survivors from storm-ravaged areas.
"Instead of looking around for where you're going to land when you're picking folks off, you could put this thing down in a small parking area," Vaughn said of the Lakota. "It's got two motors on it, a tremendous rotor system, it gives us the capability to hoist out both sides and it is the right aircraft."
Drawing comparisons to Katrina obviously resonates in Mississippi, which is still recovering from the unprecedented storm more than a year later.
"Is it going to affect Mississippi? You bet. Mississippi is going to get four of these right off the bat" Vaughn said. "Mississippi is going to be a key player in what happens with this particular aircraft."
The Lakotas also will free up combat helicopters like the UH-60 Black Hawks for more appropriate wartime missions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cody said. And Guard units could use the Lakotas to take on more medevac operations.
U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said the Lakota contract will bring at least 200 new jobs to the state.
"Two years ago, American Eurocopter and EADS North America made an investment in this community. They had confidence that we could supply the skilled work force and they had confidence this community could provide the quality of life necessary to attract those type of people in for employment," Wicker said. "We are returning that with a quality aircraft."
Ralph D. Crosby Jr., EADS North America's chairman and CEO, said the company is ahead of schedule on the delivery of the first Lakotas and hopes to keep it that way.
"Being able to participate in the modernization of the greatest armed forces in the world says volumes about the capabilities of our equipment. Our focus ... is delivering 322 airplanes to the Army on time or ahead of time," Crosby said.
EADS expects to deliver the second Lakota by year's end, and 40 are expected for delivery in 2007-2008.
EADS North America is a subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the world's second-largest aerospace company behind Boeing Co.
Its Columbus plant, located on 40 acres at the Golden Triangle Airport, already builds the company's A-Star (AS350) helicopters, and it customizes other Eurocopter models.

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