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American Eurocopter helicopters proudly serve the American government and military â€“ flying missions that protect the nation’s borders, monitor its coastlines, protect against drug trafficking and support homeland security.
The U.S. Coast Guard has the largest Eurocopter fleet in government service today, flying 101 MH-65 Dolphin multi-mission helicopters that are based at 18 Coast Guard Air Stations throughout the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
The traditional role of this twin-engine aircraft â€“ which is a version of Eurocopterâ€™s AS365 â€“ has been in patrol missions, search and rescue flights and other applications. Its duties have subsequently been expanded to include the use of armed Dolphin versions for the protection of the U.S. Capital region and for the interception/interdiction of vessels at sea, including the famous HITRON mission.
Search and rescue remains one of the key duties for the MH-65 fleet. Dolphins were used extensively in lifesaving operations after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and are routinely deployed on missions from sea level to high-altitude mountainous terrain.
All MH-65s have been upgraded to the MH-65C version, which included their re-engining with the FADEC-equipped Turbomeca Arriel 2C2 turboshaft, enhancing safety, reliability and performance. This conversion also involved main and tail gearbox upgrades to accommodate the more powerful engines, and the integration of a reconfigured cockpit control panel featuring a Vehicle and Engine Multifunction Display (VEMD). The Arriel 2C2 engines provide 38 percent more power than the MH-65’s original powerplant, substantially enhancing its capabilities.Â
Currently the MH-65C fleet, while going through depot overhaul at the USCG ALC (Aircraft Logistics Center â€“ Depot) receives the “D” model designation after receiving new navigation and radio modifications.Â Â Prototyping is now underway for the “E” model upgrade which upgrades the aircraft with the CAAS (Common Avionics Architecture System) and eventually the Digital Automatic Flight Control System.
American Eurocopter supplied the MH-65C upgrade kits, which consisted of some 15,000 parts. In addition, a conversion line for the Dolphin re-engining was created at American Eurocopter’s facility in Columbus, Mississippi â€“ supplementing the primary conversion work carried out in Elizabeth City, North Carolina at the Coast Guard’s Aircraft Repair and Supply Center.
The U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters, are built at American Eurocopter’s Columbus, MS facility and supplied by its EADS North America parent company. Selected in June 2006, the UH-72A was chosen by the Army based on the helicopter’s combination of operational capability, reliability, and affordability â€“ while also fulfilling all of the Army's requirements for speed, range, endurance and overall performance.
Current planning calls for the supply of over 300 Lakotas. The UH-72A is a version of the proven EC145 twin-engine helicopter, and the Lakota fleet will be used in homeland security operations, medical evacuation, passenger/logistics transportation and drug interdiction missions.
UH-72A deliveries began in December 2006, with more than 260 of them delivered â€“ all on time and on budget â€“ making the Lakota one of the most successful phase-ins of a new aircraft in Army aviation history.
Initial Lakotas were deployed to the Army’s National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, California; the Training and Doctrine Command’s flight detachment at Fort Eustis, Virginia; and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Army National Guard units are the UH-72A’s primary users, with operations initiated in the summer of 2008 by the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 1-114 Security & Support Battalion â€“ which performs homeland security, counter-drug and other operations from Tupelo Regional Airport. Â
By 2012, Lakotas were operating from U.S. Army and National Guard basing locations across the continental U.S., as well as in Puerto Rico, Germany and the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll.
These helicopters are used in multiple configurations for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions; search and rescue operations; border patrols along the U.S./Mexico border; VIP transport; general aviation support; and in combat flight training at the service’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, and the National Training Center, Ft. Irwin, California.
Working with EADS North America as the UH-72A program’s prime contractor, American Eurocopter has expanded the equipment packages (MEPs) for the UH-72A â€“ achieving FAA certification for the Combat Training Center (CTC) mission equipment package in 2010, while the comprehensive MEP package for Army National Guard Security and Support (S&S) Battalion missions entered operational service in 2011.
In addition to the Army Lakotas, the U.S. Navy has received five H-72A versions for training of test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries.
As part of EADS North America’s commitment to the U.S. Army, American Eurocopter created its dedicated assembly line for UH-72As at Columbus, and successfully completed the on-time in-sourcing of its full production activity from Germany in 2010 to this 220,000-sq.-ft. state-of-the-art facility adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is another major government customer for American Eurocopter rotary-wing aircraft. Its helicopter inventory of AS350s and EC120s was bolstered by the major agreement announced in July 2008 for American Eurocopter to supply Customs and Border Protection with up to 50 additional AS350B3s, to be acquired in an indefinite quantity/indefinite delivery contract with a base year and four one-year options.
Both the AS350 and EC120 are well suited for the Customs and Border Protection mission of surveillance and security patrol of America’s borders, with excellent flight and handling qualities, low noise level, good visibility and the capability to carry mission-specific equipment. As the quietest helicopter in its class, the EC120’s environmentally-friendly operation enables missions to be flown in wildlife zones contained within the Customs and Border Protection’s area of responsibility.
Other U.S. government agencies operating American Eurocopter helicopters include the FBI, which utilizes the AS350, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Justice.