Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee joined leaders of EADS North America and American Eurocopter at a rally Thursday to call on Congress to restore funding for the Army’s UH-72A Lakota helicopter in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
The rally took place at EADS North America’s American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss., where the Lakota is produced for use in a wide range of roles by the Army, Army National Guard and Navy. With a unit cost of just $5.5M, the Lakota has been cited by the U.S. Department of Defense as a model defense acquisition program and is one of the most successful, cost-effective rotary wing aircraft procurement programs in history.
Proposed cuts in the 2014 budget submitted to Congress in April would reduce production of the Lakota in 2014-2015 by 31 fewer aircraft than the Army planned to buy. These cuts, which would result in negligible savings, would effectively end Lakota production by the end of 2014 and endanger the jobs of many of the more than 300 Columbus employees, more than half of whom are U.S. military veterans.
“As the Governor of Mississippi and Commander-in-Chief of the Mississippi Army National Guard, I firmly believe this proposal was made hastily during a time when our country is in dire financial crisis,” Gov. Bryant said at a rally at the American Eurocopter plant in Columbus. “I understand cuts must be made to alleviate some of the strain on the national debt, but it is counterproductive for the Department of Defense to cancel this cost-effective, successful program. Every helicopter produced here has been delivered on time and on budget.”
“The program has proven invaluable to our national security, and the multi-mission capabilities offered by the Lakota only increase the demand for them around the country,” Bryant said.
“American Eurocopter is an American success story that demonstrates Mississippi as a premier destination for high-tech manufacturing,” said Wicker, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Budget constraints in Washington have led to reductions in defense spending. However, I believe those cuts should be focused on wasteful spending and not on programs like the Lakota that are vital to national security.”
“At a time when the Department of Defense has hard spending choices to make, a program like the Lakota should be the last one singled out for reduction,” Rep. Harper said. “The Lakota has the lowest cost to buy, own or operate of any military helicopter in production.”
Rep. Nunnelee praised the American workforce that delivers the Lakota, more than half of whom are veterans or currently serve in the National Guard or Reserves. “As a nation, we should be working hard to create new job opportunities for our veterans, not slashing programs that employ them. The men and women who build the Lakota have honored all their commitments, in uniform and on the assembly line, and they have earned the opportunity to finish the job they’ve started,” Nunnelee stated.
The Army, National Guard and Navy have applauded the capabilities and performance of the Lakota. The highly adaptable aircraft has been delivered in many different configurations, for missions including border security, search and rescue, medical evacuation, pilot training and personnel and cargo transport missions. National Guard crews have praised the aircraft’s performance in missions flown on the U.S.-Mexico border conducting surveillance for drug and human trafficking.
“The Lakota continues to serve well in the role that the Army and National Guard envisioned for it, and it can easily and affordably be modified to serve in a wider range of missions, including forward deployment to combat zones,” said Sean O’Keefe, EADS North America Chairman and CEO. “Yet it costs a fraction as much to buy and to operate as any other aircraft available to meet the mission.”
“Our customer, the U.S. Army, is pleased with our work,” said Marc Paganini, President and Chief Executive of American Eurocopter. “We have provided an aircraft that performs every day with a more than 90 percent availability rate. That is unheard of across other Army aviation platforms. We recognize our employees for the outstanding work they do in equipping the men and women of the U.S. military with the best aircraft possible.”
American Eurocopter also was honored at the rally by the Golden Triangle Development LINK agency as its first regional Industry of the Year. “American Eurocopter was one of the first major industries we landed when the LINK was formed,” said Joe Max Higgins, Jr., Chief Executive of LINK. “They’ve been an outstanding partner over the past decade, and we’re honored to support them as they fight to keep jobs in our community.”
About American Eurocopter
American Eurocopter is a helicopter manufacturer that produces, markets, sells and supports the broadest range of civil and para-public helicopters offered by any manufacturer in the United States. The company is a subsidiary of EADS North America Holdings, the North American operations of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defense and related services, and is an affiliate of Eurocopter, the largest helicopter manufacturer in the world. American Eurocopter’s product line represents the most cost-effective, technologically-advanced helicopters, ranging from light single to heavy twin, serving all markets and missions. Company headquarters and main facilities are located in Grand Prairie, Texas, with a large manufacturing and production facility in Columbus, Miss., that produces the UH-72A for the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program.
About EADS North America
EADS North America is the U.S.-based operation of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defense, and related services. EADS contributes more than $14 billion to the U.S. economy annually and supports over 225,000 American jobs through its network of suppliers. EADS North America, headquartered in Herndon, Va., offers a broad array of advanced solutions to meet U.S. military and commercial requirements, including fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, homeland security systems, public safety communications, defense electronics and avionics, and threat detection systems.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defense and related services. In 2012, the Group — comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter — generated revenues of EUR 56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.
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