WASHINGTON — Boeing expects to start delivering the Air Force’s first field-ready MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters later this year.
In a Friday release, Boeing said it finished construction on the first low-rate initial production Grey Wolf in late December. That helicopter also started its flight testing at Italian aerospace firm Leonardo’s facility in Philadelphia, the company said.
Boeing said the MH-130 is continuing the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification testing process.
The Air Force plans to buy up to 80 MH-139s to replace its fleet of 63 UH-1N Huey helicopters. Security forces airmen will use them to patrol the service’s nuclear missile fields, and the service also plans to use these helicopters to transport senior military officials.
The Grey Wolf is a militarized version of Leonardo’s AW139 commercial helicopter.
“We are committed to advancing this program and have achieved another significant milestone with the first production aircraft,” Azeem Khan, Boeing’s MH-139 program director, said in the statement. “This accomplishment positions us to complete outstanding testing and move closer to delivering this critical capability to the U.S. Air Force.”
The Air Force awarded Boeing a contract in March 2023 to build the first 13 LRIP MH-139s. The company delivered the sixth and final test helicopter to the Air Force in fall 2023, which marked the end of its research, development, test and evaluation phase and a pivot toward entirely production.
Difficulties in integrating military systems with the commercial helicopter design, and delays in the FAA certification process, have slowed down the MH-139 program.
The systems integration challenges led to a schedule breach in April 2021. Also that year, the FAA certification delays caused the Air Force to push back its procurement plans by about a year and a half. Those FAA certifications came in 2022, which allowed the Air Force to accept its first four test helicopters and make the Milestone C decision to move forward with producing the Grey Wolf.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.
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