10 Januari 2015
The army is considering a new order for the UH-72A Lakota helicopter, made by Airbus Helicopters, a division of EADS North America in the US. (photo : US Army)
The military is moving toward making the American-made UH-72A Lakota Thailand’s main light-utility helicopter with the army planning to add on to last year’s order of 15 Airbus Helicopters choppers with more to replace its ageing fleet of Vietnam-era aircraft.
Army chief Udomdej Sitabutr said Friday that the US-made helicopter is the choice for the army as part of the plan to modernise its helicopter helicopter fleet in the 2016 fiscal year.
The UH-72A Lakota is a non-arms-bearing helicopter that performs medical and casualty evacuations, provides disaster relief, aids in homeland defense and also works to counter drugs and narcotics.
He did not detail which of the four variants of the militarised Eurocopter EC145 the military was considering, but an army source said earlier that the army was eyeing UH-72A, an unarmed utility military version of the EC145.
The military ordered six UH-72A copters in March from Airbus Helicopters, the American subsidiary of EADS North America. It then boosted that with an order of nine more in late September for an estimated cost of $89 million. The army chief did not specify how many new aircraft the army was considering.
With the recent crashes of army Bell 212 helicopters, the army is accelerating its push to upgrade fleet, which consists of 40 212's and about the same number of Bell UH-1 "Huey" aircraft dating back to the Vietnam war. The army budget for in the next fiscal year will be mainly used to bring in new helicopters and train new pilots, Gen Udomdej said.
The decision followed several accidents, including the one in Phayao province in November that killed deputy 3rd army region commander Maj Gen Songphol Thongjeen.