February 20, 2014 10:03:56 AM
Less than a month after the U.S. Congress passed a budget package that funded twice the expected amount of Lakota helicopters to be produced at the Columbus Airbus plant, there is more good news for the people who build them.
The U.S. Army has awarded a $22.8 million contract modification to purchase four new UH-72A Lakota helicopters produced at the facility.
Airbus' parent company, EADS North America, was awarded the contract. Airbus Group, Inc. became the new name of what was formerly known as American Eurocopter Feb. 1.
Employees at the Columbus plant will build the helicopters and are estimated to finish them in March 2015, according to a release from Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi.
"I am proud of the manufacturing capabilities and technical expertise of our workers in Mississippi, whose efforts support Army missions both at home and broad," Cochran said in the release. "This contract modification can be seen as confirmation of those abilities."
Cuts to production of the aircraft had been part of a proposed $50 million budget reduction to the U.S. Department of Defense, which would have meant employees could only build 10 helicopters. The budget passed last month funded production of 20 and provided $171 million to support the procurement of more Lakotas.
Sam Adcock, Vice President and General Manager of the Columbus plant, thanked the state's congressional delegation for supporting the Lakota program.
"We are pleased with the Army's decision to order the four additional UH-72A Lakota helicopters. The Lakota has proven to be a versatile, highperforming helicopter for the Army and we appreciate the Army's continued support for this program," Adcock said. "The workers at Airbus Helicopter's Columbus plant have done an outstanding job by producing every one of these aircraft on time, on budget and meeting the Army's stringent quality requirements."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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