How new Army helicopter contract with Airbus will help Columbus

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Airbus announced on May 23rd that the U.S. Army has once again awarded them a contract to support and maintain its fleet of Lakota helicopters, built at their facility in Columbus.

The contract has the potential to generate around $1.5 billion in revenue for Airbus over the next five years.

The Contractor Logistics Support Deal is the largest of its kind for the global aerospace design and manufacturing company.

“(The UH-72B Lakota is) a great utility helicopter, twin-engine operation, very, very cost-effective to operate,” says Keith Kenne, senior director of government contracts for Airbus.

Kenne says the UH-72B has about one-third the operating cost of a Blackhawk helicopter. He says the Army uses them for medevac, troop transport and training new pilots.

“The aircraft is a lot like the Swiss Army Knife of helicopters,” he says. “It can do support and security missions like on the southwest border, it’s used a lot down there. It can run drug interdiction missions.”

Kenne sees the same versatility and potential in the new contract Airbus has agreed to with the Army.

“The aircraft get ongoing flight hours on many different missions,” he says. “So the Army needs ongoing parts and repairs and overhauls of the helicopters, and that’s what this new contract does.”

Kenne says they were first awarded such a contract in 2006 and have maintained that trust with the Army since then.

“It’s a little too early to say but there could be dozens of new employees, depending on the scope of the project that’s added to the contract over the next five years,” he says.

Kenne says the contract should help them keep their highly-skilled workers at their factory in Columbus

“As you can see behind me, there are a lot of technicians (here),” he says. “They’re all vying for different companies and different opportunities. So if the contract stays stable here, the employees will stay here and work on this army mission.”

And it could attract others who want to be part of the potentially $1.5 billion deal.

“You can have employees that not only work here but work at other sites, who want to come to this location to work,” he says. “Give them a ladder to climb.”

The contract is set to go into effect in July 2022. Airbus currently employs about 300 people at its Columbus facility.

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