During mid-August 2022, the USAF accepted ownership of the first four MH-139A Grey Wolf test helicopters. This, mere weeks after Boeing completed the final Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certification required for the MH-139A, to achieve its Military Flight Release.
Boeing’s MH-139A Grey Wolf is a multi-mission militarised version of Italy's Leonardo Aerospace, Defence and Security company AW-139 commercial helicopter. The programme was initially scheduled for a Milestone C (MS C) decision by the end of Fiscal Year 2021. After that, it was meant to start the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP).
Earlier, Scramble wrote about the Grey Wolf's developmental and operational testing and the preferred location to host USAF's MH-139A Grey Wolf Formal Training Unit (See 2*). However, ongoing delays in certifying the MH-139A by the FAA had to force the USAF to push off the Milestone.
While the AW-139 has already been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), USAFs Grey Wolf military-specific technologies needed to be tested and certified by the FAA. The MS C is a Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) which will lead to a review at the end of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase of a specific Defense Acquisition Process. Its purpose is to make a recommendation or seek approval to enter the Production and Deployment (PD) Phase.
Recently, the MH-139A went through rigorous acceptance tests conducted by USAF's Air Force Global Strike Command Detachment 7 and the 413th Flight Test Squadron. Also, with now Air Force-only aircrew conducting the tests of the military capabilities of the MH-139A, the programme moves forward quickly.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf will replace the USAF-fleet of obsolete Bell UH-1N Huey helicopters, offering a significant capability increase in speed, range, endurance, payload, and survivability. Eventually, the USAF will acquire eighty MH-139A helicopters, training devices, and associated support equipment.
The MH-139A will provide vertical airlift and support to four Air Force Major Commands and other operating agencies including Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air Force District of Washington (AFDW).
The following MH-139As are now owned by the USAF; 18-1001, 18-1002, 18-1003 and 18-1004. Two more are known to be flying with Boeing's Philadelphia plant; N397SH (to become 19-1005?) and N806SH (to become 19-1006?).