Kentucky Guard welcomes new aviation assets

Story by Capt. Gustave LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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The three newest LUH-72s for the Kentucky National Guard sit in the Army Aviation Support Facility in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 16, 2014. The Lakotas will replace the aging OH-58 Kiowa helicopters. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Army National Guard recently added three new helicopters to their existing fleet.  The brand new LUH-72A Lakota replaces the Vietnam era OH-58  Kiowa A/C.  Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 376th  Aviation now has four of the state of the art helicopters.

According to Col. Michael Ferguson, commander of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, the new aircraft is designed to assist law enforcement as well as support domestic operations during hazardous events more effectively.

When asked to compare the UH-72A Lakota and the OH-58 A/C, Ferguson responded by saying that the Lakota has a modern avionics suite making the aircraft more capable to fly in inclement weather.  He added that the aircraft’s Mission Equipment Package is updated and more robust to support a wide array of missions.

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A Soldier with Charlie Co., 1st Battalion 376th Aviation examines the engine of a new LUH-72 helicopter at the Kentucky National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 16, 2014. Soldiers of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade are still getting used to the new aircraft and the many new upgrades the Lakota offers.(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“The Lakota is a modern aircraft with unique capabilities to provide support to the citizens of the Commonwealth during our most challenging times,” said Ferguson.

Col. Brian Abney, Facility Commander for the Army Aviation Support Facility, spoke about how the increased capabilities of the Lakota will help serve the Commonwealth.

“This new airframe is a very stable and capable aviation platform. The aircraft’s flexibility enhances its ability to perform search and rescue, security support and command and control mission functions.”

Kentucky has been preparing to receive the Lakota for several years.  A great deal of training accompanied the procurement of the new helicopters.  Ferguson stated that the brigade has been sending Kentucky pilots to transition training for the past year.  Pilots will continue the transition training through 2014.

Pilots aren’t the only Soldiers receiving new training.  Helicopter maintainerswere recently certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as licensed Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics.  Maintainers have also attended a course to learn how to sustain the Lakota.

Abney spoke about the readiness of Kentucky pilots and maintainers in regard to the new helicopter.

“I would put our aviators and maintainers up against the best in the world in any theater of operations.  It’s a large part of their lives.  It’s who they are.  They have made a very good name for themselves in a very unforgiving environment and it’s well deserved.”

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Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Mudd discusses the instrument panel of a new LUH-72 helicopter with another pilot at the Kentucky National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 16, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Kentucky will receive two more UH-72A helicopters during the next year.  At that point Kentucky will have completed its fielding of the UH-72A.  Ferguson feels confident that his pilots and maintainers are up to the task of utilizing the Lakota to its fullest capabilities.

“We are well postured to continue excellence in this specific mission. Kentucky has always been looked at as the standard bearer.”

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