Boeing will provide its MH-139 helicopter and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the more than 40-year-old UH-1N “Huey” helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases.
The UH-1N Replacement Program contract awarded on Sept. 24 is valued at $2.4 billion for up to 84 helicopters, training devices and associated support equipment. The USAF currently operates 62 Hueys but has a requirement to replace them with 84 aircraft.
“We’re grateful for the Air Force’s confidence in our MH-139 team,” said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift. “The MH-139 exceeds mission requirements, it’s also ideal for VIP transport, and it offers the Air Force up to $1 billion in acquisition and lifecycle cost savings.”
The original service cost estimate for the replacement program was $4.1 billion.
“Strong competition drove down costs for the program, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayer,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.
The other competitors for the program were:
+ Lockheed Martin offering HH-60U ‘Ghost Hawk’, a variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift military utility helicopter.
+ Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) offering UH-60L Force Hawk, an upgraded surplus U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. L3 Technologies and Ace Aeronautics are serving as subcontractors on SNC’s bid.
Bell, the manufacturer of the Huey light utility helicopter, was not be among the competitors.
The award of approximately $375 million is for the first four MH-139 helicopters and includes the integration of non-developmental items. This additional equipment integrated into the aircraft will ensure the helicopters are ready to meet the service’s needs upon delivery. The contract also includes operations, maintenance, training systems and support equipment for the aircraft.
The new aircraft’s primary missions are guarding and protecting the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch sites. It has to be also used for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions, routine missile site support and aerial testing. The aircraft should also provide secure and survivable emergency transport to support Continuity of Government (COG) Operations in Washington, D.C.
This replacement will provide the necessary speed, range, endurance and carrying capacity needed to meet the requirements of five Air Force major commands, officials said.
“A safe, secure and effective nuclear enterprise is job one,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “It is imperative that we field a capable and effective helicopter to replace UH-1Ns providing security for our ICBMs and nuclear deterrence operations.”
“We’re proud to provide the U.S. Air Force with solutions across the entire services ecosystem,” said Ed Dolanski, president of U.S. Government Services, Boeing Global Services. “With the AW139 platform’s more than 2 million flight hours and established supply chain, we look forward to applying our expertise to drive cost savings while supporting mission readiness.”
The MH-139 derives from the Leonardo AW139, which is used by more than 270 governments, militaries and companies worldwide. Leonardo will assemble the helicopters at its northeast Philadelphia plant, with Boeing integrating military-specific components at its facility south of that city. This is the first time Leonardo has sold a rotary-wing aircraft to the Pentagon.
The first operational helicopter delivery is expected in Fiscal Year 2021.
Current UH-1N Huey locations include Eglin Air Force Base’s Duke Field, Florida; Fairchild AFB, Washington; FE Warren AFB, Wyoming; Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington, Maryland; Kirtland AFB, New Mexico; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota.
Each of the these existing Huey bases will receive replacement aircraft, the service announced earlier this year.