The MH-139A Gray Wolf is a variant of the Leonardo AW-139, specifically developed to respond to the needs of the USAF
U.S. Air Force officials said Cascade County, Montana-based Malmstrom Air Force Base will be the first site to receive new MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters to replace the Vietnam-era Bell UH-1N Huey fleet. Douglas Clark reports in Homeland Preparedness News.
The new fleet is expected to be fully operational by 2023. Malmstrom Air Force Base serves as a vital component of the Air Force’s land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) mission, used to secure and transport airmen between launching. “After repeated delays, this announcement is welcomed news for our brave men and women at Malmstrom Air Force Base who will be first in line to receive this long-awaited helicopter replacement fleet,” Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who advocated for the action, said. Tester successfully secured funding for the replacement helicopters through the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and the Defense Appropriations bill. After a series of delays, Tester pressed the Air Force in 2018 to provide a detailed timeline on the program’s replacement.
According to Valerie Insinna in Defense News, the Grey Wolf — built by prime contractor Boeing and based on Leonardo’s AW139 helicopter — has completed its critical design review five months earlier than predicted in June 2019. The MH-139 should be able to hit a 135-knot cruise speed and fly for at least 3 hours — and a minimum distance of 225 nautical miles — without needing to be refueled. Like the UH-1N Huey before it, the Grey Wolf will be able to carry nine fully loaded troops. The Air Force plans to buy 84 Grey Wolf helicopters over the course of the program.
Boeing won a $2.38 billion firm, fixed-price award for the Huey replacement in September 2018, offering a price $1.7 billion less than the program’s initial estimate, Valerie Insinna recalls. The Air Force accepted its first MH-139 in December 2019, one day after the first detachment was formed at Duke Field. The Air Force said at the time that Detachment 7 would eventually relocate to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and operate a total of four Grey Wolf helicopters in support of test and evaluation activities. The Air Force is set to make a low-rate initial production decision in September 2021.