News: Guard aviation welcomes new, upgraded addition to its fleet
Story by Sgt. Beyonka Joseph
HAMMOND, La. — The Louisiana Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 244th Assault Helicopter Battalion from Hammond, La., received its first UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter from an aviation initiative to upgrade the National Guard's aging UH60A fleet that will boost its effectiveness during deployments and hurricane emergency operations.
The national recapitalization program, commonly referred to as the "A to L Recap," is performed at Corpus Christi Army Aviation Depot. The new addition to the LANG's fleet, which was received July 16, is the first of several upgraded helicopters that the unit will receive from the national recapitalization program.
With the help of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation, the LANG became a part of this program to begin revamping its aging helicopter fleet to increase mission effectiveness.
"This is a great day for the Louisiana Army National Guard and our aviation battalion as we continue to modernize our fleet of helicopters," explained Lt. Col. Johnathon W. Ballard, commander of the 244th. "This provides our Soldiers with aircraft that have greater capabilities to conduct our missions."
The program, which is part of the Aircraft System Improvement Plan, is designed to address the need for more modern aircraft that have greater performance capabilities.
Through the program, the older models are transported to the Army depot, where they are stripped down to the frame, modified and rebuilt into a more powerful and more effective helicopter.
"We are gaining a tremendous amount of resources without actually having to lose any of our assets," said Maj. John P. Plunkett, executive officer for the battalion. "Instead of having a lot of outdated aircraft, our helicopters will now be equipped with the latest technology."
The upgraded model features improved power management performance, stronger gearboxes, enhanced range and flight control capabilities and a better quality air frame. It also offers lower maintenance costs, as well as advantages in engine size and speed.
"Another advantage that the upgrade adds is the increased strength," Plunkett said. "The stronger body frame, along with the improved lift power, helps tremendously during emergency operations."
As the 2009 hurricane season approaches, these upgrades will allow a quicker response time and allow aviation crews to maneuver better during search and rescue missions or other emergency situations.
The unit will use the upgraded UH-60L models for missions that include air movement, air assault operations, emergency search and rescue operations and food and water transport and distribution.
In addition, the 1-244th AHB will also use the modified aircraft for staff transport and liaison, target acquisition and reconnaissance, and limited air movement flights for the Louisiana National Guard.