HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - National Guard members from all across the country came to the Tennessee Valley to learn about the UH-72A Lakota helicopter and the various systems the aircraft can support.
Just last week, fourteen pilots from Guard units in Kentucky, Maryland, and West Virginia attended training on the latest variation of the UH-72 Lakota. The S&S, or Security and Support Mission Equipment Package, boasts several high-tech features.
Capt. Clay Bagwell is the Assistant Project Manager of the UH-72 office on Redstone Arsenal. He said, "Perhaps one of the greatest tools it offers is the forward looking infrared, which is a night camera." The camera has been used to track down suspects, find marijuana, and even find survivors from national disasters that might be trapped. An operator in the back of the helicopter can zoom in on certain areas to better identify an object. Those images can be then downlinked to civilians working on the ground.
Another asset that the aircraft has is the 30 million candlepower searchlight. Capt. Bagwell described the use, "If the helicopter is assisting a law enforcement agency and they're trying to find an object or a bad guy that's trying to get away, the searchlight is going to slew to the camera."
Since National Guard members use this system, they need training. There are six instructors for the S&S MEP system, all of whom are support contractors with a Huntsville-based defense contractor.
The two week classes feature both time in the classroom and in the air. Kyle Cummins is a Guard member from Kentucky. He described the system as an "...increase in capability in terms of going out and surveying damage and things like that and knowing where we are exactly and being able to get that information back to rescue assists or people on the ground."
In regards to the course, Capt. Bagwell remarked, "They're going to take the skill sets that they learn back to their home states and they're going to execute counter drug missions, they're going to support states with their hurricane missions, tornado recovery missions.
Seventy-two S&S MEP's are currently being used by thirty-one Guard units nationwide.