The new helicopter will replace the venerable UH-1N and protect ICBM facilities.
The US Air Force Global Strike Command received the first MH-139A “Grey Wolf” for testing during a naming and unveiling ceremony on December 19, 2019. The new helicopter, that will replace the current UH-1N “Huey”, is the first service-unique helicopter acquired by the US Air Force and the first aircraft ever acquired by Global Strike Command.
As for the motivation for the choice of the official name, here’s the statement from AFGSC:
“The MH-139A name “Grey Wolf” falls in line with the current range of the Grey Wolf species, which encompasses the ICBM bases and the historical range areas represented by Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force District of Washington.
As a pack animal, the Grey Wolf name represents our mission sets which brings multiple MH-139s to the fight.”
The #MH139 has arrived!
Name coming soon! pic.twitter.com/iC0AOkMTWF
— AFGSC (@AFGlobalStrike) December 19, 2019
The MH-139A will temporally be based at Duke Field, Florida, where Detachment 7 has been established the day before the unveiling to support testing and evaluation. The detachment will work in conjunction with Air Force Materiel Command’s 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s only dedicated rotary test unit, and is set to receive a total of four helicopters before eventually moving to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, to perform additional testing and evaluation.
The Grey Wolf helicopters will provide security and support for the InterContinental Ballistic Missile facilities with improvements over the Huey’s capabilities as of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability. While the helicopters are assigned to Global Strike command, they will support also missions of other commands, like civilian SAR (Search And Rescue) and airlift support, as stated by AFGSC: “The MH-139A helicopters will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of five Air Force major commands and operating agencies: Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force District of Washington, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Pacific Air Forces. Global strike is the lead command and operational capability requirements sponsor.”
The MH-139A is based on the military version of the highly successful Leonardo AW139 and offered by Boeing as prime contractor. Up to 84 are on contract, for a total cost of $ 2.38 billion, which the Air Force reports is $ 1. Billion under budget.