Boeing will begin production on the first 13 MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters, following the award of a $285 million U.S. Air Force contract for aircraft, sustainment and support services.
«Advancing the program from testing and evaluation to production is a major step toward entering the MH-139 into service and providing the U.S. Air Force with additional missile security for decades», said Azeem Khan, Boeing’s MH-139 program director. «We are working diligently to begin deliveries next year».
The MH-139A’s enhanced capabilities allow it to accomplish missions more quickly, quietly and efficiently. With a 50 percent increase in speed and range, and an increase of 5,000 pounds/2,268 kg max gross weight, the aircraft can execute the U.S. Air Force’s mission of protecting intercontinental ballistic missiles across the country.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf team consists of Boeing, as the prime contractor, and Leonardo as an original equipment manufacturer. Leonardo produces the helicopter at its plant in northeast Philadelphia, while Boeing is responsible for military equipment procurement and installation and post-delivery support of the aircraft. By offering a proven AW-139 platform and integrating additional military capabilities into the MH-139A Grey Wolf, the Boeing-Leonardo team provides the U.S. Air Force with the most capable product for the mission.
«My teammates at Leonardo, together with Boeing, are eager to continue our partnership and ensure the success of the MH-139A Grey Wolf program», said Clyde Woltman, CEO of Leonardo Helicopters U.S.
Boeing has delivered four MH-139A Grey Wolf test aircraft to the U.S. Air Force as the service prepares to replace its aging fleet of UH-1N helicopters.
The Grey Wolf is a multi-mission aircraft – based on the proven commercial AW139 helicopter – designed to protect intercontinental ballistic missiles and transport U.S. government officials and security forces. Boeing was awarded a $2.4 billion contract in September 2018 for 80 helicopters, training systems and associated support equipment.
«The Grey Wolf is a modern, versatile aircraft offering greater range, speed and endurance than the UH-1N Huey it replaces», said Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift. «I am proud of our team who, along with our partner Leonardo, helped us to achieve this milestone – a tremendous first step in a long line of Grey Wolf deliveries».
The delivery milestone follows receipt of the Federal Aviation Administration-issued supplemental type certificate, required to commence deliveries. With aircraft in hand, the Air Force will now proceed with Military Utility Testing as the program progresses toward Milestone C.
«We are thrilled that the first four MH-139As have been accepted by the U.S. Air Force», said Clyde Woltman, chief executive officer, Leonardo Helicopters U.S. «This aircraft is well-positioned to become an important asset in the defense and security of the United States».
Leonardo produces the helicopter at its plant in northeast Philadelphia, while Boeing is responsible for military equipment procurement ad installation, and post-delivery support of the aircraft.
Boeing has the most advanced military rotorcraft in the world, renowned for leading-edge solutions that deliver proven capabilities. With 60 years of expertise and a global fleet over 2,500 strong – comprising the AH-6 Little Bird, AH-64 Apache, V-22 Osprey and H-47 Chinook aircraft, and in-development entrants, including the MH-139A Grey Wolf and DEFIANT X – Boeing advances missions ranging from precision attack and reconnaissance to medium and heavy lift operations.
As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future, leading with sustainability, and cultivating a culture based on the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity.
Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) named the MH-139A helicopter, the «Grey Wolf» during a naming ceremony here, at Duke Field, Florida, December 19, 2019.
General Timothy Ray, AFGSC commander, made the announcement, comparing it to the wild animal that bears the same name.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf is the first major acquisition for the command in its 10-year history. The name Grey Wolf is derived from the wild species that roams the northern tier of North America, which also encompasses the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile bases in AFGSC.
«It strikes fear in the hearts of many», Ray said. «Its range is absolutely inherent to the ICBM fields we have».
«As they hunt as a pack, they attack as one, they bring the force of many», he said. «That’s exactly how you need to approach the nuclear security mission».
The helicopters will provide security and support for the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields which span Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. The new helicopter closes the capability gaps of the UH-1N «Hueys» in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability in support of the command’s intercontinental ballistic missile missions. Other mission capabilities include civil search and rescue, airlift support, National Capital Region missions, as well as survival school and test support.
The roll out of the new helicopter, demonstrates an asset providing Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security in support of U.S. Strategic Command’s nuclear deterrence operations aligned with the National Defense Strategy. The acquisition was contracted through Boeing during a full and open competition at a cost of $2.38 billion for up to 84 aircraft – $1.7 billion under budget. It is the command’s first commercial «off-the-shelf» purchase, adding military-unique modifications.
The Air Force will procure up to 84 MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters, training devices and associated support equipment from Boeing.
«When I think about the issue in front of us, about moving forward in nuclear deterrence, when I stare down a wave of acquisition for essentially everything we do, I hope this particular program is a harbinger of very successful stories to follow», the general said. «Not just for our command, but for the good of the nation, and for the good of our allies and partners».
The Grey Wolf will replace the UH-1N Huey, which entered the operational Air Force in 1970.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of five Air Force major commands and operating agencies: Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force District of Washington, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Pacific Air Forces. Global strike is the lead command and operational capability requirements sponsor.