December 1, 2012: The U.S. Army has bought another 34 twin engine UH-72A ("Lakota") Light Utility Helicopters, for $5.4 million each. Additional electronics and anti-missile systems add several millions to the cost per chopper. With the new order the army has bought 312 of the 345 UH-72As it plans on getting. Most have already been delivered.
Built by European firm EADS, the UH-72A is a militarized version of the EC145, a helicopter long popular with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The EC145 was introduced eight years ago and has been very popular with its users. The UH-72A purchase is a side effect of the cancellation of the Comanche scout helicopter eight years ago (mainly because of constantly increasing costs). Comanche was perceived as too expensive and complex. The UH-72A mainly replaces the few remaining UH-1 (“Huey”) helicopters, which are being retired because of old age.
The UH-72A has about the same capacity as the UH-1, despite its smaller size. The 3.6 ton UH-72A has a top speed of 260 kilometers an hour and a max range of 660 kilometers. Average endurance per sortie is about two hours. The helicopter has a crew of two and can carry up to eight passengers or about three-quarters of a ton of cargo or weapons. The UH-72A has been popular with its users and has had a readiness (for flying) rate of 90 percent.
There is also an AAH-72X armed scout version in development, which can carry about a ton of weapons (machine-gun pod, plus guided and unguided rockets) and sensors and is competing to become the new armed scout helicopter and replace the Vietnam era OH-58D. The AAH-72X is basically an armed version of the new UH-72A, with added electronics to make it an all-weather aircraft and more aware of its surroundings. This is part of a second attempt to obtain a new scout helicopter. An earlier (2005) competition had been won by the ARH-70 but that contract was canceled after the manufacturer increased the price by 70 percent (to $14.5 million per helicopter). The AAH-72X has an inside track because the military is pleased with the UH-72A.