NAVAIR Teams with Army to Procure Five Helicopters for Test Pilot School

The H-72 with a notional U.S. Naval Test Pilot School paint scheme. (Submitted illustration)
The H-72 with a notional U.S. Naval Test Pilot School paint scheme. (Submitted illustration)

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (Oct. 15, 2008) – NAVAIR is teaming with the Army to buy five new H-72 Lakota helicopters for the United States Naval Test Pilot School located here.

The helicopter, the H-72, will replace is the Vietnam-era TH-6B Cayuse helicopter used by the Test Pilot School since the early 1990’s. The youngest of the TPS TH-6’s were built for the Army in 1968. “The six TH-6’s have served TPS very well over their 17 years of service but they were tired aircraft and in real need of replacement,” said CAPT James Glass, Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. “We are working towards accepting the Lakotas at TPS in 2009.”

“The Army has a $3 billion contract with EADS North America to buy 345 of the H-72s for their Light Utility Helicopter replacement program. NAVAIR is working with the Army to use this same contract to buy the five Lakotas for TPS,” said Capt. James G. Wallace, Program Manager for the Support and Commercial Derivative Aircraft Program Office (PMA-207). “NAVAIR’s cost for the five Lakotas and their support and maintenance costs total approximately $30 million.”

“This program is a great opportunity for further cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the Army in the area of aviation. The success of the Light Utility Helicopter program makes this possible by being able to provide the necessary aircraft in the desired timeframe without any affect on the Army’s needs and requirements,” said Col. Neil Thurgood, Project Manager Utility Helicopters, U.S. Army.

The H-72 Lakota is a commercial off-the-self Eurocopter EC-145. Adding a flight test data collection package is the only modification required to meet TPS requirements. The TPS Lakotas will also have air conditioning, jettison-able crew doors, underwater locator beacon, Traffic Collision Avoidance System, a fixed beam cargo hook, and upgraded skid steps, all are standard options available on the EC-145.

“The advanced features of the H-72 are critical to preparing rotary wing test pilots to perform testing on advanced helicopters. TPS is the Department of Defense’s rotary wing test pilot school. The school trains pilots from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and multiple international partners,” added Glass. “The H-72’s features and capabilities match those of current and future rotary wing systems far better than the TH-6 and will ensure TPS graduates are prepared to test them.”

The Lakota’s name follows a Department of Defense regulation that designations for new Army helicopters be Native American in origin. Authorization for the Lakota name included approval from a majority of the council members that form the Sioux Nation. Lakota Indians are part of the seven confederations that compose the Sioux nation, and were known as a peaceful, non-aggressive people that lived by hunting buffalo on horseback.

The H-72 Lakota is built on two production lines, American Eurocopter in Columbus, Miss. and at Eurocopter’s main facility in Donauworth, Germany.

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