Boeing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters to help U.S. Airforce protect ICBMs
Boeing has initiated the production of its MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters intended to be supplied to the U.S. Air Force. The development comes following an award of $285 million for aircraft, sustainment, and support services.
The military aims to replace its aging fleet of Bell UH-1N Huey helicopters that protects its land-based nuclear missile infrastructure.
“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, in a press release. The aviation company plans to deliver its batch of 13 helicopters beginning next year.
An advanced offering for high-stake operations
According to Boeing, MH-139A's advanced design would ensure that missions are done more efficiently. Compared to Bell UH-1N Huey helicopters, MH-139A offers a 50 percent increase in speed and range and an increase of 5,000 pounds max gross weight. "The aircraft can execute the U.S. Air Force’s mission of protecting intercontinental ballistic missiles across the country."
Boeing remains the primary contractor for the project, while Italian defense firm Leonardo will act as an original equipment manufacturer. The production of the helicopters will be done at Leonardo's plant in northeast Philadelphia. At the same time, Boeing will handle the "military equipment procurement and installation and post-delivery support of the aircraft."
The firm claims that MH-139A offers a state-of-the-art avionics system with advanced flight deck functionality and improved situational awareness resulting in reduced crew workload. Furthermore, it is an "off-the-shelf, readily available solution that leverages repurposed technologies from proven Boeing Rotorcraft programs to guarantee performance, flexibility & safety."
Features that make MH-139A ideal for the airforce include world-class military and commercial systems integration capabilities, a training system based on existing AW-139 operational flight trainers, and a design that enables users to accomplish all aircraft maintenance at the operational level.
Reduced cost of production and ownership
The new helicopter, which will be built using Boeing proven AW-139 platform with the addition of the required military capabilities, is designed to offer lower manufacturing and operating costs, which is estimated to save the military over $1 billion over the fleet's lifespan.
Boeing claims that using its global supply network with a fleet of more than 250 customers, 900 aircraft, and two million flight hours, "MH-139A will deliver unrivaled affordability, supportability, and reliability for substantial life cycle savings."