Partners Boeing and Leonardo will from early next year begin deliveries of the first MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters to the US Air Force (USAF) following the service’s so-called ‘Milestone C’ decision to green-light production.

A total of 13 MH-139s are covered by the initial $285 million low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract, adding to four engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft handed over last year and a pair of training assets to be delivered “in the coming months”, says Clyde Woltman, chief executive of Leonardo Helicopters Philadelphia.

MH-139A Grey Wolf

Source: Boeing

Initial EMD assets were handed over last year

Celebrating the production contract at the Heli-Expo show in Atlanta on 8 March, Courtney Mixon, senior director Boeing Vertical Lift Supply Chain, said the Milestone C decision “officially moves the programme into the production phase”.

“We are working together to safely and actively deliver on our commitments to our customer; let’s let the Grey Wolf prowl,” she adds.

Selected in 2018 to replace the USAF’s fleet of Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1N Hueys on domestic missions to protect intercontinental ballistic missile sites, the service has a total requirement for 84 MH-139s.

Leonardo Helicopters builds the aircraft at its site in Philadelphia before they are transferred across the city to Boeing’s Ridley Park facility for the installation of mission equipment; the US aerospace giant is prime contractor on the Grey Wolf programme.

Delivery of the first four EMD assets was delayed by around one year due to issues in obtaining US Federal Aviation Administration certification for the platform.

But Azeem Khan, Boeing’s MH-139 programme director, says “it is not a matter of catching up” on the delay but “providing the capability that we signed up to”.

The two remaining test aircraft will arrive “by August”, he says, helping to close out any remaining certification activities. “That will be the end of that chapter,” he says.