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The U.S. Air Force’s Huey replacement helicopter, the Boeing MH-139 — destined to guard the nation’s nuclear missile fields — will be delivered to the service in Florida and begin testing Dec. 19, the same day it will receive a new name and a day after the inauguration of its new unit.
The first MH-139 is scheduled to arrive at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in mid-December to begin testing. Flight testing is scheduled to continue through late 2022 with a decision on whether to enter low-rate initial production, called Milestone C, by the end of 2021.
When they enter service in 2023, the MH-139 aircraft will replace legacy UH-1N Huey helicopters that have patrolled nuclear missile fields and perform doomsday VIP transport in and around Washington, D.C.
Air Force Global Strike Command on Dec. 18 will formally establish Detachment 7 to support testing and evaluation of the new helicopter at Eglin’s Duke Field in Florida. The unit will take command of the new fleet of MH-139As, the first service-unique helicopter bought by the Air Force and the first ever aircraft purchased by Global Strike Command.
On Dec. 19, the MH-139 will be unveiled and given an official military designation and name. To test the aircraft, Detachment 7 will work with Air Force Materiel Command’s 413th Flight Test Squadron, the only such unit dedicated to testing rotorcraft.
“It is a unique and exciting opportunity to lead some of the Air Force’s best airmen in the acquisition and testing of the MH-139A,” LCol Mary Clark, who will become Detachment 7’s first commander, said in a prepared statement.
The MH-139 is based on the Leonardo Helicopters commercial AW139 multi-mission helicopter built in Philadelphia. The aircraft are shipped across town to Boeing’s manufacturing facility, where they are militarized and outfitted with nuclear-mission specific equipment, sensors and communications gear.
The current $375 million contract awarded in September 2018 covers the first four aircraft that will be used for operational test and evaluation. The first operational MH-139 is scheduled for delivery in 2021.
Boeing and Leonardo are building 84 of the helicopters under a $2.4 billion contract awarded in 2018. The team beat out Sikorsky and Sierra Nevada for the contract.
All four aircraft being built will enter testing at Eglin. The second is scheduled to arrive in mid-January, with the third and fourth arriving in February, according to the Air Force.