Boeing unveiled its MH-139 helicopter in the competition to replace the U.S. Air Force’s UH-1N “Huey” fleet, which currently protects intercontinental ballistic missiles and transports U.S. government and security forces. Photo courtesy of Boeing
Boeing is teaming with Leonardo to offer a version of the latter's AW139 as the replacement for the U.S. Air Force’s obsolescent UH-1Ns for nuclear missile field security and VIP transport missions.
The aerospace and defense giant announced the partnership this morning at the Air Force Assn.’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, with its VP and general manager for Boeing Vertical Lift, David Koopersmith, discussing details of the deal. Boeing would serve as the prime contractor on the bid.
Koopersmith also is the senior site executive for the Boeing Philadelphia manufacturing facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. The partners plan to build the helicopter, dubbed the MH-139, on Leonardo's active production line just up the road at Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
The Air Force is pursuing the acquisition of 84 helicopters to replace the 1970s-vintage Bell Helicopter Hueys, which top Air Force officials have said lack the performance for their current mission sets and are becoming more difficult and costly to maintain. The service recently scrapped plans to issue final request for proposals, citing industry comments that it was unfeasible to offer an off-the-shelf aircraft for the competition.
But Boeing and Leonardo said they are offering exactly that: an off-the-shelf, FAA-certificated helicopter that they are confident can meet the mission requirements and program timeline spelled out in the Air Force’s most recent draft request for proposals. They said they also are confident that many of the military-specific equipment requirements of the UH-1N replacement can be satisfied with a selection of items already approved for installation on the AW139 under supplemental type certificates for which Leonardo has gained regulatory approval.
Of course, the replacement program would require installation of military-unique equipment on the MH139, such as secure communications systems and defensive countermeasures.
The partners' confidence in meeting the Air Force’s schedule is based on their planned use of the "hot" AW139 production line in Philadelphia. Leonardo officials said the company has built more than 250 of those aircraft in Philadelphia over the last 10 years.