Boeing continues to transition towards low-rate initial production of the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter after completing the program’s Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) phase, delivering the sixth and final test aircraft to the U.S. Air Force last month. Boeing expects to provide the first low-rate production aircraft to the customer in 2024. To date, the Air Force has awarded Boeing a contract to build the first 13, with the first aircraft already in final assembly. Ultimately, Boeing will provide up to 80 MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters to the Air Force. MH-139A aircraft will replace the UH-1N Huey and are tasked with protecting intercontinental ballistic missiles across the U.S. and transporting VIP and security personnel.
“With the final test aircraft delivered, we’re headed into an exciting production phase. With the MH-139, the United States Air Force is getting a faster and more capable aircraft to bring them into a new era of service for this mission,” said Robert Beyer, MH-139 Senior Program Manager, Leonardo Helicopters US. “Leonardo is incredibly proud of this aircraft, and we look forward to the continued partnership with Boeing and the USAF as we deliver additional Grey Wolf helicopters.”
“Delivering all of the RDT&E aircraft to the Air Force enables them to continue critical operational testing and allows Boeing to focus on building the first production aircraft.” said Azeem Khan, MH-139 program director. “The Grey Wolf will provide crucial national security capability improvements to the Air Force. This is an important step in getting the aircraft into service.”
The Boeing MH-139 derived from the AW139 built in Philadelphia, with a fleet of almost 900 aircrafts, serving more than 250 customers worldwide, spanning more than 1.7 million flight hours. The AgustaWestland AW139, now known as the Leonardo AW139, is a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined helicopter developed and produced by the Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland (now part of Leonardo). It is marketed at several different roles, including VIP/corporate transport, military use, offshore transport, fire fighting, law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical service, disaster relief, and maritime patrol. A dedicated militarised model, the AW139M, was also developed by AgustaWestland; it was first procured by the Italian Air Force.
On 24 September 2018, the U.S. Air Force announced that the MH-139, an AW139 variant, was the winner of a competition to replace the Vietnam-era Bell UH-1Ns, accordingly, the service is set to buy up to 84 MH-139s. On 19 December 2019, the USAF received the first MH-139A Grey Wolf at Eglin Air Force Base. Flight testing by the service commenced during 2020; several rectifiable deficiencies were identified, such as the positioning of the gunner in the cabin fulfilling the specified requirements yet not satisfying reviewing USAF officials, thus alternative cabin configuration have been discussed. In early March 2023, the USAF gave a positive Milestone C decision and issued a $285 million LRIP contract for the first 13 MH-139s; low-rate production commenced days later.