COLUMBUS – Airbus Helicopters Inc. on Friday celebrated its record as a supplier to the U.S. Army at the company’s Columbus production facility where it manufactures the Army’s UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter.

The Army has recently contracted for an additional 51 UH-72As to be produced from 2018 through 2020. Airbus has delivered 423 Lakota aircraft under the Army contract, including helicopters in use with the U.S. Navy and the Royal Thai Army.

The Columbus plant employs about 200 workers, nearly 40 percent of which are U.S. military veterans.

The Lakota fleet recently surpassed 500,000 flight hours in a variety of missions across the globe.

“This milestone is a manifestation of the hard work and dedication of our employees who have helped make the UH-72A Lakota the most viable and affordable multi-mission helicopter for our customers,” said Chris Emerson, President of Airbus Helicopters Inc. and head of the North America region.

The Army utilizes the Lakota for a variety of missions including homeland security, drug interdiction, general support, logistics, humanitarian aid, and medevac.

U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi attended Friday’s event in Columbus.

“Mississippians are very good at meeting the needs of our military “We take great pride in this helicopter manufacturing facility, which has delivered more than 400 Lakota helicopters to the U.S. Army. Today, we celebrate the continued success of this program and highlight its highly-skilled workforce that consistently delivers high-quality helicopters to our soldiers,” Hyde-Smith said.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a staunch supporter of Airbus, also attended the Columbus event.

“I commend Airbus for their continued excellence in delivering these helicopters on time and budget and producing them right here in the state of Mississippi. It’s a testament to our state’s skilled workforce,” Bryant said.