Army contract secures Airbus jobs

Staff Writer

As expected, the U.S. Army has awarded $273.2 million contract to Airbus Helicopters to purchase 35 UH-72A helicopters to be made at the company's Lowndes County plant.

The contract and potential future contracts being negotiated in budgets now, add security to the jobs of many of the plant's 200 employees.

The awarding of the contract, which has been in the process for two months, was announced by U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Congressman Trent Kelly (R-Miss.).

The contract had been held up initially by a legal challenge by another supplier but that challenge was dropped last month.

Under the firm-fixed-price procurement contract, the Army is initially dedicating $136.6 million from the aircraft procurement appropriations toward the purchases in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2017 and the same amount in the spending year that ends Sept. 30 this year.

Cochran, Wicker, and Kelly, all of whom serve on defense committees, worked to authorize and provide funding to procure additional UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopters for the Army.

“I appreciate the Army moving forward with this contract. The delivery of these UH-72A helicopters will help meet an unfunded priority need for the Army. I am confident our excellent workforce in Mississippi will manufacture high-quality aircraft for the Army in a timely manner,” said Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense.

“This announcement is great news for national security and for our skilled manufacturers in Columbus,” Wicker said. “An Army contract for 35 new helicopters will ensure our workers can continue to build on their record of on-time, on-cost deliveries. I’m proud to have worked with members of our Mississippi delegation to help expedite the Army’s procurement of these world-class machines for our soldiers.”

Wicker is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We have the greatest fighting forces in the world and they must have the tools they need to protect America,” said Kelly, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

The estimated contract completion date associated with this contract is March 9, 2021.

Senate and House negotiators are working to resolve difference in recommended funding for the Defense Department for FY2018. The House has approved $166.6 million for UH-72A Lakota helicopters, while the Senate Chairman’s mark recommended $198.3 million. Negotiations are expected to be completed in the next two weeks.