November 9, 2014:
The U.S. government has approved a Thailand request to buy nine UH-72A ("Lakota") Light Utility Helicopters. These will cost $10 million each (including training for pilots and maintenance crews, as well as spare parts and special maintenance gear). Thailand chose the UH-72A because it was most similar to the elderly UH-1s that Thailand is retiring. Originally Thailand wanted only six but it was pointed out that it would be cheaper to order a few more because of the cost of setting up the training and maintenance operations.
For the moment the only sales of the UH-72 will be to foreign countries because budget cuts have forced the U.S. Army to stop buying the twin engine UH-72A. In early 2013 the army ordered another 34 Lakotas for $5.4 million each. Additional electronics and anti-missile systems add several million to the cost per chopper. With that order the army has bought 312 of the 347 UH-72As it planned on getting. Most have already been delivered and apparently no more will be ordered.
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 nine 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 in 2004 (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 have been 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.