The Kentucky Army National Guard unveiled a new tool in its arsenal Thursday morning: the UH-72A Lakota helicopter.
Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini said the new helicopter will replace the older Kiowa model and will be used for light utility. Specific uses could include reconnaissance, observation and search and rescue operations.
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said the new helicopters would provide great assistance to the Guard, which coordinates responses not only to national security threats, but also environmental threats such as the tornados that impacted much of the state in 2012.
Tonini added that the six helicopters coming to Kentucky would see much use as support craft assisting Kentucky State Police in counter-drug operations. He said the new aircrafts fly at one third of the cost of the commonly used Blackhawk helicopter.
The Lakota comes with several notable features Tonini described, including a high-powered spotlight for search and rescue efforts, the most advanced forward-looking infrared system the military possesses and advanced mapping systems capable of live streaming movements over a secure channel or to the Internet.
“Imagine how helpful this will be when assessing the damage after a natural disaster,” Tonini said while describing the new features.
More than 200 Lakota helicopters will be deployed to U.S. states and territories to act in a support role, Abramson said.
The Kiowa helicopters are being repurposed for various uses, and many have come to the Boone National Guard Center Army Aviation Support to be worked on by engineers there because of their experience and the quality of their work, Tonini said.
Military, state and local officials broke ground in July on a $24.8 million Army Aviation Support Facility at the Boone National Guard Center that will replace a 39,000-square-foot facility built more than 50 years ago.
The new facility will feature 73,460 square feet of maintenance and hangar space, 24,751 square feet of unheated aircraft storage and 28,175 of administrative space. It is slated for completion by this fall.
It is being built on the west end of the Boone National Guard Center, not far from the Capital City Airport runway and Louisville Road. The current facility is on the northern part of the installation near the West Plaza Connector Road entrance.
The expansion has stirred concerns among those living near the Boone National Guard Center and in the flight path, but local officials downplayed those concerns during last year’s groundbreaking ceremony.