An operational US Air Force (USAF) unit has for the first time received one of the new Boeing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters which will replace the Bell UH-1N in supporting physical security at the USA’s nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos.

Malmstrom AFB in Montana, which is one of three USAF facilities that hosts Boeing LGM-30 Minuteman III nuclear ICBMs, revealed the receipt of its first MH-139A on 9 March.

“The Grey Wolf will support nuclear security and continuity of government operations with its increased speed, range, life and endurance while also meeting missile field security requirements,” the facility says.

MH-139 arrives at Malmstrom

Source: Boeing

The US Air Force plans to acquire 84 Boeing MH-139 helicopters to provide security at the USA’s nuclear missile silos

Air Force Global Strike Command (GSC) is responsible for maintaining and securing the USA’s ground-based nuclear strike arsenal. GSC operates 64 UH-1Ns, according to Cirium data, which are used to secure the Minuteman III sites.

Boeing confirmed the delivery in a video posted to social media site Threads on 11 March.

While Malmstrom’s 341st Missile Wing is the first frontline unit to receive the Grey Wolf, Boeing notes the aircraft is not a new delivery. The airframer had previously delivered six early-production aircraft to the USAF for testing and evaluation, one of which the service subsequently assigned to Malmstrom.

“The base became the first operator to receive an MH-139 Grey Wolf aircraft from the Air Force Global Strike Command,” Boeing says.

Video shows the dark-painted Grey Wolf landing amidst a backdrop of snow-covered mountains at the base deep in the continental interior of North America.

The USAF says the current UH-1N Huey will be phased out over the next 10 years, as more MH-139s are delivered. Boeing notes the new aircraft offers 50% faster cruising speed, 50% greater flight range and an extra 2,270kg (5,000lb) of lift capacity.

Air force officials plan to acquire 84 examples of the MH-139, which is based on a modified Leonardo Helicopters AW139 civil airframe.

Leonardo produces the helicopter in Philadelphia, while Boeing, acting as prime contractor, is responsible for militarising the aircraft and delivering them to the USAF.

Boeing in March 2023 won a low-rate initial production contract for 13 production-model MH-139s.

The company in January revealed video of the first completed production-model Grey Wolf undergoing flight testing.

A Boeing official tells FlightGlobal that aircraft is still in company possession, with delivery expected later this summer.