Boeing-Leonardo Team Win $2 Billion Deal To Replace US Air Force Huey Fleet

By Dan Parsons | September 24, 2018
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Boeing will provide its MH-139 helicopter and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases. Photo courtesy of Boeing

A team of Boeing and Leonardo helicopters were chosen by the U.S. Air Force to replace the Air Force's UH-1N Huey fleet with 84 helicopters under a $2.38 billion contract.

The $375 million contract announced Sept. 24 is for the first four MH-139 helicopters and includes integration of non-developmental items, according to the Air Force. The first operational helicopter delivery is expected in fiscal 2021, when it will take over patrolling nuclear missile fields and perform doomsday VIP transport in and around Washington, D.C.


Boeing will provide its MH-139 helicopter and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases.

“We’re grateful for the Air Force’s confidence in our MH-139 team,” said David Koopersmith, VP and general manager for 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 contract also includes operations, maintenance, training systems and support equipment for the MH-139 aircraft.

“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 at 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.”

Air Force forecasts put the program’s total price tag at $4.1 billion, but Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said, "Strong competition drove down costs for the program, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayer.”

Boeing teamed with Leonardo to offer the MH-139 helicopter based on Leonardo's commercial AW139 multi-mission helicopter. The team pitched the aircraft as an affordable Huey replacement that could save the Air Force $1 billion over its life cycle, according to Rick Lemaster, Boeing's director of global sales and marketing for military vertical-lift programs.

Incumbent Bell did not submit an offering, leaving the Boeing-Leonardo team to fight it out with Sikorsky and Sierra Nevada Corp. in the “best-value” competition.

Sierra Nevada Corp. proposed conversion of old Army UH-60A Black Hawks to the more-modern L model.

Sikorsky bid the HH-60U Black Hawk, which the Air Force is already using three HH-60Us for range support. Steve Callaghan, VP of strategy and business development, said Sikorsky is disappointed in the decision, but remains confident the HH-60U is the “strongest, most capable solution” for the mission.

“Adding Black Hawks to the Air Force’s existing fleet makes sense from both a sustainability and cost savings perspective by leveraging the commonality of the Air Force H-60 fleets,” he said in a prepared statement. “We remain committed to delivering superior helicopters to the Air Force in our existing and future contracts.”

The UH-1N entered into service in the 1970s and protects the Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and launch sites and provide emergency transportation to support Continuity of Government Operations missions in Washington, D.C. Air Force requirements indicate that the service is looking for a faster and quieter helicopter to handle the escort of convoys, missile field contingencies, the transportation of government officials and range support. The Air Force calls for each bird in the replacement fleet to be able to fly 480 hours per year.

"A safe, secure and effective nuclear enterprise is job one," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a prepared statement. "It is imperative that we field a capable and effective helicopter to replace UH-1Ns providing security for our ICBMs and nuclear deterrence operations."

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