On April 14 and 15 CAL FIRE and the California National Guard held their annual helicopter training in preparation for the wildland fire season. This year there were three UH-66 L Blackhawks and two UH-72 Lakota helicopters at the CAL FIRE Training Academy in Ione, California. Typically they would have CH-47D Chinooks as well but the National Guard Company from the Stockton facility is going overseas. These photos were taken and sent to us by Bob Martinez, a Volunteer in Prevention Photographer for CAL FIRE/Fresno County Fire. He also sent us photos last year that he took at the training. Thanks again Bob.
One of the highlights of the training was the addition of the new UH-72 Lakota, a version of the Eurocopter EC145. It is basically an off the shelf model, barely militarized, simplifying maintenance and parts availability. These helicopters, 345 of them, are being introduced to the Army and the Army National Guard to replace the aging UH-1H/V (Bell 204) and OH-58A/C (Bell 206) helicopters. The Lakota has two engines, cruises at 153 mph, carries two pilots and six or eight passengers, or two stretchers and a medical staff. Some of them are outfitted with a winch which can be used for extracting injured soldiers or firefighters from remote locations. On fires it will not drop water but will be primarily used as a platform for a military Helicopter Coordinator, which is required when military helicopters are flying. It can also be used for recon, transportation, EMS, or logistics missions. The Lakota is built in Columbus, Mississippi by the American Eurocopter division of EADS North America.