The U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) will stand up Detachment 7 later this month at Duke Field, Florida, to support testing and evaluation of the command’s new Boeing MH-139A helicopter.
The MH-139A is the first service-unique helicopter acquired by the Air Force and the first aircraft ever acquired by AFGSC. It will replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N “Hueys” which have capability gaps in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability in support of the command’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) missions.
“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,” said Lt. Col. Mary Clark, who will assume command of Detachment 7 on Dec. 18.
The new detachment will work in conjunction with Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)’s 413th Flight Test Squadron (413 FLTS), which is the Air Force’s only dedicated rotary test unit. The unit resides in temporary administrative and hangar facilities on Duke Field, which were constructed in only three months. The detachment will eventually move to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, to perform additional testing and evaluation of the aircraft.
The Detachment 7, comprised of pilots and special mission aviators, will manage four helicopters, with the first scheduled to be delivered on Dec. 19 at the naming and unveiling ceremony. The second aircraft is due to arrive mid-January 2020, while the third and fourth aircraft are scheduled to arrive in February.
The helicopters were acquired from Boeing through a full and open competition at a cost of $2.8 billion ($1.7 billion under budget) for up to 84 aircraft under the USAF UH-1N replacement program.
The MH-139 derives from the Italian Leonardo/AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter and is the AFGSC’s first commercial “off-the-shelf” purchase, adding military-unique modifications.
The new helicopters will provide security and support for the nation’s ICBM fields which span Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska, all with increased range, speed and payload. Other multiple missions include civil search and rescue (SAR) capabilities; airlift support; National Capital Region (NCR) missions; survival school and test support.
The MH-139 helicopters will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of five Air Force major commands and operating agencies: Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), Air Force District of Washington (AFDW), Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) and Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). AFGSC is the Air Force lead command and operational capability requirements sponsor.
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 these existing Huey bases will receive replacement aircraft, the service announced last year.