The Grey Wolf is a multi-mission aircraft – based on the proven commercial AW139 helicopter – designed to protect intercontinental ballistic missiles and transport U.S. government officials and security forces. Boeing was awarded a $2.4 billion contract in Sept. 2018 for 80 helicopters, training systems and associated support equipment.
“The Grey Wolf is a modern, versatile aircraft offering greater range, speed and endurance than the UH-1N Huey it replaces,” said Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift. “I am proud of our team who, along with our partner Leonardo, helped us to achieve this milestone – a tremendous first step in a long line of Grey Wolf deliveries.”
The delivery milestone follows receipt of the Federal Aviation Administration-issued supplemental type certificate, required to commence deliveries. With aircraft in hand, the Air Force will now proceed with Military Utility Testing as the program progresses toward Milestone C.
“We are thrilled that the first four MH-139As have been accepted by the U.S. Air Force,” said Clyde Woltman, chief executive officer, Leonardo Helicopters U.S. “This aircraft is well-positioned to become an important asset in the defence and security of the United States.”
Leonardo produces the helicopter at its plant in north-east Philadelphia, while Boeing is responsible for military equipment procurement ad installation, and post-delivery support of the aircraft.
Boeing has the most advanced military rotor-craft in the world, renowned for leading-edge solutions that deliver proven capabilities. With 60 years of expertise and a global fleet over 2,500 strong — comprising the AH-6 Little Bird, AH-64 Apache, V-22 Osprey and H-47 Chinook aircraft, and in-development entrants, including the MH-139A Grey Wolf and DEFIANT X — Boeing advances missions ranging from precision attack and reconnaissance to medium and heavy lift operations.
The confidence gained from taking part in and leading in the developmental efforts of the Air Force’s first acquisition helicopter. Those early labours from concept to reality culminated as she climbed into one of the pilot seats for the MH-139A’s first flight under Air Force ownership at Eglin Air Force Base on Aug. 17.
“This milestone really represents the beginning of Air Force testing for the Grey Wolf,” said Lt. Col. Mary Clark, a former requirements officer with the Grey Wolf program, now at the 96th Operations Group. “We can now open up those test points for the military and push the envelope more to ensure we’re delivering that operational capability the units need out of the helicopter.”
The Grey Wolf achieved this milestone after earning its military flight release on Aug. 12. The new status allows Air Force-only aircrew to conduct testing on military capabilities of the MH-139A as the program moves forward. Prior to the military flight release, military and Boeing contractors shared the flight duties since the aircraft’s arrival here in December 2019.
During that two-and-a-half-year period, the military testing fell to the 413th Flight Test Squadron and the Air Force Global Strike Command Detachment 7, in which Clark was a former commander. The 413th FLTS is the Air Force’s only rotary-wing developmental test unit.
“We learned a lot over the last two years,” Clark said. “That experience allowed us to shape our test plans and ultimately save time. We already know some baseline foundational things we don’t have to re-establish in our own program.”