BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Army National Guard unveiled two new UH-72 Lakota helicopters Thursday equipped with the tools needed to work in combat conditions and in Maine’s challenging environment, according to guard spokesman Maj. Michael Steinbuchel.
The 2014 helicopters are very high-tech and designed for aerial reconnaissance, aerial support, and search and rescue, Steinbuchel said.
“They have some imaging capabilities, they have some forward looking capabilities that were previously not available,” Steinbuchel said. “This is going to assist us greatly in conducting personnel search and rescues. You know the Maine woods from above looks pretty much the same with the green tree tops, and so these helicopters are going to provide us the ability to look for lost or missing persons. They are are also going to help us with supporting a rescue. If we need to extract someone, they have some hoist capabilities, and they have some firefighting capabilities.”
The Bangor-based assault battalion 224th Aviation Security and Support aircraft were unveiled at the Army Aviation Support Facility located on Hayes Street.
The helicopters are a welcome addition to Army Guard’s 23-member unit, part of Detachment 2, Bravo Company, which does missions in support of homeland security and when called on by the Department of Defense.
The arrival of the new aircraft is part of a nationwide program to replace the National Guard’s aging Bell OH-58A/C Kiowa helicopters, which have been in service for almost three decades.
The technical capabilities of the new Lakota helicopters are far superior to the aging models they are replacing, including applications in search and rescue and wildfire detection operations, Steinbuchel said.
Brig. Gen. James Campbell, adjutant general of the Maine Army National Guard, and about 50 others were at Thursday’s event.
“Capt. Will Bradbury, commander of the unit, spoke about his excitement in replacing aircraft from the 1970s, and how the real-time imagery capabilities allow him to transmit data back to decision makers that was previously unavailable in the Maine National Guard,” Steinbuchel said. “This he suggested could be used to send [Maine Emergency Management Agency] ice flow data on the Kennebec River or look for a missing hiker.”