Thailand has ordered six of the American UH-72A ("Lakota") Light Utility Helicopters. These will cost $13 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 replacing.
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. Eight months ago 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, which means at least 35 Lakotas will not arrive.
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.