HOHENFELS, Germany --- After a long wait, five new UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters arrived Wednesday at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
Falcon Team pilots landed three twin-engine Lakotas on Wednesday morning at the airfield on Army Garrison Hohenfels. Pilots landed two more of the light utility helicopters later in the day.
Chief Warrant Officer Chris Prater, a flight operations officer and instructor pilot at JMRC, was one of the pilots who made the two-hour flight from Ramstein Air Base. "We were the first ones to fly these aircraft in Europe for the U.S. Army," he said. "That's a unique feeling."
Prater said JMRC and the Falcon Team had been planning for the new aircraft's arrival for more than a year. "Wow! It's happened. The wait's over," Prater said.
The Falcon Team is slated to receive five more Lakotas in January to bring the inventory to 10 at JMRC. The Lakotas will replace the post's aging fleet of 10 UH-1 Hueys, which entered the military service more than 25 years ago.
Prater, who likens helicopters to motorcycles, said he likes the old Hueys, but not as much as he likes the new Lakotas. "The Huey is like a cruiser. It's like a Harley Davidson. It makes a lot of noise. It pops. It's easy to fly. It's laid back. The Lakota is like a crotch rocket. It's sleek, it's fast, it's modern," Prater said.
The Lakota aircraft will become part of JMRC's training center's inventory utilized to train U.S. and multinational forces. The aircraft will carry equipment that includes a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, a Smart On-Board Data Interface Module, and an electronic data manager.
Preparations for the Lakotas' arrival to JMRC included sending 20 pilots to qualification training, sending crew chiefs to academic training and readying the facilities to maintain the new aircraft.
Maj. Steve Murphy, Falcon operations officer and senior operations trainer, said the Lakota will enhance JMRC's capabilities. "The new airframe offers a lot of flexibility," he said. "It gives pilots more situational awareness and better communication packages. Plus, it's a much easier aircraft to maintain."
Among the helicopters that arrived at JMRC was the 100th aircraft manufactured. EADS North America, who builds the aircraft, delivered the 100th UH-72A Lakota to the U.S. Army on March 4, 2010, at American Eurocopter's production facility in Columbus, Miss., where the twin-engine helicopter is produced.
Military leaders have said the UH-72A Lakota program has progressed on schedule and within budget. With a remarkably high operational availability rate and an admirable safety record, the aircraft has been well received by Army aircrews.