The Air Force has officially started testing its newest helicopter as a replacement for the iconic UH-1N Huey helicopter.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf completed its first test flight with a combined Boeing and Air Force crew on Feb. 11, the service announced in a statement, allowing the Air Force “its first in-flight look at the capabilities of the aircraft.”
“This first flight with Boeing was a critical step for the MH-139A program and allows us to establish a foundation for government testing,” said Maj. Zach Roycroft, the 413th Flight Test Squadron's lead test pilot for the aircraft, in a statement.
Boeing clinched a $2.38 billion contract in September to replace the Air Force's aging Huey fleet, which is currently utilized to protect nuclear missile silos at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
According to to Air Force Global Strike Command, the new MH-139A “closes the capability gaps of the UH-1N in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability in support of the command's intercontinental ballistic missile missions.”
The Air Force plans on purchasing 85 MH-139 airframes over the next decade to conduct ICBM overwatch missions spanning Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska, Military.com reports.
“The Boeing MH-139A pays homage to the grey wolf, an extremely adaptable species known for its power and endurance, which contributes to its ability to roam large distances,” Boeing said in a statement at the time. “The name falls in line with the geographical areas of the United States represented by Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force District of Washington. As a pack animal, the Grey Wolf represents the Air Force's mission sets, which bring multiple aircraft to the fight.”