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Wed, Jun 20, 2007

UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter Enters Operational Service

EADS Reports Deliveries Running Ahead of Schedule

The US Army has equipped its first operational unit with EADS North America's UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter in one of the most rapid introductions of a new aircraft in the service's history.

This milestone was reached when the National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment in Ft. Irwin, CA received its sixth Lakota, which occurred less than 11 months after the contract was awarded in June 2006. 

"Achieving this key program milestone so rapidly reflects the success of our partnership with the Army, the quality of the UH-72A and our focus on program performance -- all essential elements in meeting EADS' commitment to our men and women in uniform," said Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., EADS North America's Chairman and CEO.

The milestone followed Full Material Release (FMR) authorization from the Army's Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), confirming that the UH-72A and its production system are ready to support the Light Utility Helicopter mission. According to Army program officials, FMR was granted at the initial request -- a first in AMCOM history for an Army aviation system, according to the company.

"This is a landmark event for Army Aviation because we are getting a much needed aircraft to the field in record time," said Keith Roberson, deputy manager for the Army's utility helicopter program at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, in earlier public comments to the media. 

EADS North America has supplied seven UH-72As to the Army at the rate of one aircraft per month. In September, deliveries will increase to two per month, ultimately reaching five per month in 2009.

The UH-72A is supplied by EADS North America's American Eurocopter business unit at Columbus, MS. Currently, seven additional UH-72As are in various stages of preparation and customization at the Columbus facility, which is situated adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.

A major expansion of American Eurocopter's Columbus plant is ahead of schedule for completion in September, and includes new buildings for the Lakota's assembly hall, flight line and storage area, paint shop, warehouse, administrative offices, flight operations and flight test engineering.

The Army has a requirement for up to 322 UH-72As in a 10-year program with a total life-cycle value of over $2 billion. To date, the Army has ordered a total of 42 UH-72As from EADS North America, along with the associated training services for pilots and maintenance personnel, external hoist kits, and MEDEVAC "B-kits."

UH-72As will be used primarily within the US for homeland security operations, medical evacuation, passenger/logistics transportation and drug interdiction missions. Many of them will be assigned to Army National Guard units in locations throughout the country, allowing older-generation helicopters to be retired and freeing up larger rotary-wing aircraft for assignment to other duties -- including deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

FMI:  www.eads.com, www.uh-72a.com

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