The USAF has selected the Boeing-Leonardo MH-139 to replace its ageing UH-1N Huey fleet. The initial order for four helicopters will cost $375,550,368 with the programme potentially seeing orders of up to 84 aircraft with the total funding estimated to be $2.38 billion.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said that “strong competition drove down costs for the program, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayer.” With the programmes original estimates coming in at just over $4 billion.
The Italian-designed MH-139, based on the commercial AW-139, beat out the more expensive Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky’s Black Hawk to replace the USAF’s ageing mid-west ICBM security force Huey fleet. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in an Air Force press release that “it is imperative that we field a capable and effective helicopter to replace UH-1Ns providing security for our ICBMs and nuclear deterrence operations.”
Here’s the Department of Defense’s announcement in full:
“The Boeing Co., Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, has been awarded a $375,550,368 firm-fixed-price contract for the non-developmental item integration of four aircraft to replace the UH-1N. This is the basic award of a contract (including options) valued at approximately $2,380,000,000, which will provide for the acquisition and sustainment of up to 84 MH-139 helicopters, training devices, and associated support equipment. The location of performance is predominantly in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If all options are exercised, the work is expected to be completed by September 2031. This award is a result of a competitive acquisition. Fiscal 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation funds in the amount of $98,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8739-18-C-5030).”
David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift, greeted the contract award by expressing his gratitude “for the Air Force’s confidence in our MH-139 team. 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.” President of U.S. Government Services, Boeing Global Services, Ed Dolanski, added that “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.”
The first operational MH-139 is expected to be delivered in FY2021.