Posted by John McHaleNASHVILLE, Tenn., 21 April 2011. Army officials Redstone Arsenal, Ala., say that they have been able to return 23 National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to combat deployment thanks to the on-time and early deliveries of the UH-72A Lakotas from EADS North America in Arlington, Va.The 23 Black Hawks returned to service is critical, says Col. Neil Thurgood, Army project manager, Utility Helicopters. Thurgood mades his comments during a press conference this week at the U.S. Army Aviation Association of America AAAA annual forum in Nashville, Tenn. "It is almost the equivalent of an assault battalion," he adds.For more on the Lakota's avionics read "Army helicopters get avionics face-lifts."A major reason the that the Lakotas are meeting their delivery goals is that the requirements have not changed, which often happens in a program, causing the integrators and industry partners to have to keep re-designing to keep up with the changes, which equates to delays, Thurgood says. The Army will still make modifications as components go obsolete, but the requirements will not change, he adds. The Lakota was developed through industry-funded research then sold to the Army in a commercial transaction, says John Burke, vice president, EADS North America. Burke also made his comments during the press conference.They key is that Eurocopter has the largest commercial helicopter fleet in the world, and was able to leverage the commercial technology used in those programs, Burke continues. Also it helps that the Army's "acquisition leadership is focused on where it’s going not where it's been," he adds.The UH-72A is produced in Columbus, Miss., at EADS North America's American Europcopter business unit's rotary-wing center of excellence. Production of the Lakota, which is based on Eurocopter's EC145 multi-role helicopter produced in Germany, has been duplicated in Columbus.The transfer of production to the U.S. was "extremely smooth and EADS did not miss one delivery," Thurgood says.The Army has a total acquisition target of 345 helicopters through 2015 and 154 have been delivered to the National Guard so far, Thurgood says. The National Guard will receive 210 of that final total, he adds.The upgraded Lakotas will be used by the National Guard for reconnaissance, border protection, command and control and air movement operations that support U.S. homeland defense, and security missions.