Eight new UH-72 Lakota helicopters (left) are set to replace the aging 0H-58 Kiowa models for civil support efforts starting this month. The helicopters, which were purchased from Eurocopter by the federal government, will be used to assist federal, state and local agencies and officials in a variety of missions. Those missions include firefighting, search-and-rescue and anti-drug trafficking and cultivation efforts. They also provide support for natural disasters and border security.
Officials say the new birds are lighter, more mobile and feature many more technological bells and whistles than the older models. They say those tools, such as infrared sensors, GPS mapping and video cameras that can provide close-up views from thousands of feet in the air, will aid the guard as it assists local and state agencies and law enforcement officials.
The Guard held a ceremony and unveiling of the new helicopters, as well as a symbolic final flight for the Kiowa, for law enforcement and military officials and members of the media at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Mather Field this morning. The program included brief flights on two of the new models. Videos of the flight and the final Kiowa take off, which was piloted by one of the last Vietnam-era pilots still flying helicopters in the California National Guard, are posted on the jump.