Boeing's MH-139 helicopter, based on the Leonardo AW139, will replace the Air Force legacy UH-1 fleet. (Boeing image)
Boeing has chosen FLIR Systems to provide the electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) surveillance sensor for the U.S. Air Force UH-1N replacement helicopters it is building in concert with Leonardo.
The Air Force in September chose the Boeing-Leonardo team’s MH-139 to replace its aging UH-1 fleet. The helicopters will oversee security and provide operational support at Air Force nuclear missile fields in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota and provide doomsday VIP transport in the Washington, D.C., region. New MH-139s also will be used for training, test and operational support airlift missions.
An initial $375 million contract — of an estimated $2.4 billion total program value — awarded Sept. 24 covers the first four helicopters. The initial contract award to FLIR covers integration of the FLIR Star SAFIRE 380-HDc on those four helicopters. If chosen to continue the work on the remaining 80 helicopters the Air Force plans to buy, FLIR stands to pull in $40 million, the company said.
FLIR will provide its Star SAFIRE 380-HDc airborne surveillance camera as part of the Boeing-Leonardo UH-1N replacement contract.
The basic award of a contract to Boeing, including options, valued at approximately $2.38 billion, provides for acquisition and sustainment of up to 84 MH-139 helicopters, training devices, and associated support equipment. If all options are exercised, the work is expected to be completed by September 2031.
FLIR has provided the surveillance component for the current UH-1N helicopters in use by U.S. Strategic Command since the mid-1990s. FLIR has been part of EO/IR surveillance system upgrades on those aircraft and recently contracted to upgrade a set of legacy Hueys to the Star SAFIRE 380-HDc prior to fielding the new aircraft.
“We are honored to be selected by Boeing as part of this vital national security mission,” said Jim Cannon, president and chief executive at FLIR. “Our airborne imaging solutions will ensure enhanced surveillance and threat detection for the U.S. Strategic Command mission, helping to keep our airmen and citizens safe.”
The sensors will be manufactured by the FLIR Government and Defense Business Unit in the company’s Wilsonville, Oregon, facility. The helicopters, derived from the Leonardo commercial AW139, will be assembled at Leonardo’s Philadelphia plant. Boeing will integrate military components at its facility in Philadelphia.