Air Force Global Strike Command will stand up Detachment 7 later this month at Duke Field, Florida, to support testing and evaluation of the command’s new MH-139A helicopter.
The MH-139A is the first service-unique helicopter acquired by the Air Force and the first aircraft ever acquired by AFGSC. It will replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N “Hueys” which have capability gaps in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability in support of the command’s intercontinental ballistic missile missions.
“It is a unique and exciting opportunity to lead some of the Air Force’s best Airmen in the acquisition and testing of the MH-139A,” said Lt. Col. Mary Clark, who will assume command of Detachment 7 on Dec. 18.
The helicopters will provide security and support for the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields which span Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska, all with increased range, speed and payload. Other multiple missions include civil search and rescue capabilities; airlift support; National Capital Region missions; survival school and test support. The assumption of command comes one day prior to the MH-139A naming and unveiling ceremony at Duke Field.
The detachment will work in conjunction with Air Force Materiel Command’s 413th Flight Test Squadron, which is the Air Force’s only dedicated rotary test unit. Detachment 7 brings vital aircrew manning to the test effort and is comprised of pilots and special mission aviators.
The unit resides in temporary administrative and hangar facilities on Duke Field, which were constructed in only three months. The detachment will eventually move to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, to perform additional testing and evaluation of the aircraft. “The entire unit looks forward to delivering a safe, robust and mission-enhancing helicopter to our peers and the aviators that follow us,” Clark said.
Detachment 7 will manage four helicopters, with the first scheduled to be delivered Dec. 19 at the naming and unveiling ceremony. The second aircraft is due to arrive mid-January 2020, while the third and fourth aircraft are scheduled to arrive in February.
The helicopters based on the italian Leonardo AW-139 and offered by Boeing as prime contractor through a full and open competition at a cost of $2.8 billion for up to 84 aircraft — $1.7 billion under budget. It is the command’s first commercial “off-the-shelf” purchase, adding military-unique modifications.
The MH-139 helicopters will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of five Air Force major commands and operating agencies: Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force District of Washington, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Pacific Air Forces. AFGSC is the Air Force lead command and operational capability requirements sponsor.
The MH-139 leverages the market-leading italian Leonardo AW-139 baseline, a modern, non-developmental, multi-mission helicopter that is in service worldwide and has already demonstrated its capabilities in protecting critical infrastructures and transporting military and government representatives in various nations. The AW139 is assembled at the Leonardo northeast Philadelphia plant, with additional components to be integrated into the military MH-139 at the Boeing Philadelphia facility in Ridley Township, Pa.