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Miss. Army Guard to receive new helicopters

Eight new Lakota helicopters, manufactured in Columbus, will be assigned to the 1/114th Service Support Battalion in Tupelo next year, Maj. Gen. Harold Cross announced Friday.

The UH-72As will replace aging OH-58Ds now used by the Tupelo unit. The first four helicopters are to be delivered in May 2008 with the other four arriving soon after, Cross said.

EADS-Eurocopter North America has a $2.2 billion contract for 322 of the light utility helicopters, many of which are being built in Columbus.

The Lakotas are replacing the UH-1 and OH-58 helicopters used by Guard and Army forces.

The Lakotas also are expected to free up combat helicopters like the UH-60 Black Hawks for more appropriate wartime missions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials have said.

The Lakota will hold two pilots with nine passengers, has a life capacity of 3,000 pounds and can fly speeds of 268 kilometers an hour.

Gov. Haley Barbour said the Mississippi Guard will be the first in the country to receive the new aircraft.

Cross, Mississippi’s adjutant general, said: “Having these new aircrafts will better enable us to respond to security missions, disaster relief, search and rescue, medical evacuations and other missions.”

The Mississippi Guard’s aviation inventory includes CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Blackhawks and AH-64 Apaches.