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LAKOTAS PERFORM


The PRNG aviation unit received its first two UH-72A Lakotas in 2008. They were originally used for traditional Army missions, such as support and medevac operations. Then around 2010, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program assigned Lakotas to Army National Guard units in most states, including two to the PRNG that were outfitted specifically for homeland security, drug interdiction, and border protection. These UH-72As have a Security & Support Battalion (S&S Battalion) Mission Equipment Package (MEP) stacked with assets that include an MX-15 electro-optical/infrared sensor and laser-pointer turret, moving map and touch-screen displays, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, a 50 million+ candlepower searchlight, and an external rescue hoist from the MEDEVAC package.


In addition to performing traditional Army missions, the S&S Battalion MEP Lakotas fit perfectly into their operational environment. With no shortage of drug smugglers and human traffickers in Puerto Rico’s part of the world, the PRNG aviation unit regularly finds itself working closely with the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ATF, DEA, FBI, and local police. With all aircraft being NVG-compatible, and all pilots qualified to use ANVIS 9, Type 7 NVGs, the unit is ready for surveillance and interdiction operations at any time of the day or night.


My impression from the unit’s pilots is that they enjoy flying their aircraft, which definitely meet operational demands. The only possible improvement they might wish for is slightly more horsepower. Being a pilot myself, I doubt I ever met another pilot who didn’t want more power.


Major Carlos Vicens is in charge of the aviation unit’s operations and gives a glowing report when it comes to the helicopters’ maintenance and performance. “Fortunately the Lakotas fly a lot and rarely break,” he says. “To their credit, Airbus provides us with extremely fast support, especially given that we are 1,000 miles from the mainland U.S.”


46 Jan/Feb 2017


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