Michigan National Guard Lakotas
US Army, August 20, 2014 - GRAYLING, Mich by Staff Sgt Jason Boyd, Michigan National Guard - The UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter is the replacement for the aging OH-58 Kiowa helicopter which will be phased out in the next few years.
It is a welcomed upgrade that will get a lot of use during training exercises such as Operation Northern Strike in Grayling each year.
The Lakota is a twin-engine U.S. Army multi-role utility helicopter that can fly at up to 160 miles per hour and a maximum range of 370 nautical miles. Flying in optimum conditions it can stay in the air for as long as 3 hours and 20 minutes. It has cargo-hauling capability of up to 3,777 pounds, and a safety and security (S&S) configuration that includes a moving map, EO/IR sensor, digital video recording capability, digital and analog downlink, night vision, and a searchlight.
210 of the 345 UH-72A aircraft designated to Army aviation are being assigned to National Guard units.
These aircraft provide a dispersed, light aviation capability to support military missions and operations in support of civil authorities.
The Michigan National Guard has a total of four Lakota that are assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 112th Aviation (Service and Support) whose primary mission is homeland security and homeland defense. The unit's mission varies from disaster response to supporting local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to border security.
The Lakota is the most cost effective helicopter to fly compared to other Army and National Guard helicopters, because the flight hour costs for the Lakota are among the lowest at more than 50 percent less than the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter.
“We currently have four aircraft here in Michigan with two being "slick" aircraft and two being mission equipment package (MEP) aircraft. The slick aircraft are regular aircraft outfitted for the special mission equipment, but are not equipped with it. The MEP aircraft, come complete with an Electro-Optical/Infra-Red camera, video downlink capability, 30 million candlepower search light, digital video recorder, an external mounted electric hoist and an observer console in the back,” said Lt. Col. Paul G. Cardenas, safety and occupational health manager, Company B, 1st Battalion, 112th Aviation.
Army National Guard units across the country currently operate Lakota equipped with the S&S Battalion MEP, including extensive operations along the U.S. southwest border for border security and drug interdiction.
The Lakota along with the Black Hawks will be the primary helicopters used by the National Guard. The Lakota will be replacing the Kiowa helicopters that will be phased out over the next year.
The Apache attack helicopters are being taken away and given to the active component, and some Black Hawks are supposed to be given to help replace them.
While the Lakota is a huge upgrade, there is still a need for additional aircraft to support all of the guard’s missions.
Whether or not there will be anymore aircraft brought in to replace losses is yet to be decided, so for now what they have is what they are getting to accomplish all of the training and other mission requirements.
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