Boeing has secured the US Air Force (USAF) requirement to replace its ageing Bell UH-1N ‘Huey’ helicopters, winning a contract to deliver a US-built variant of the AgustaWestland AW139.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 24 September that it has awarded the company USD2.38 billion to provide up to 84 MH-139 helicopters in support of the USAF’s UH-1N Huey Replacement Program. If all options are exercised, the work is expected to be completed by September 2031.
The USAF currently has 59 UH-1Ns in its inventory that have been in service since 1970. These are used to help guard the service’s intercontinental ballistic missile sites in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming, as well as for VIP support, test, and search-and-rescue operations in the United States, and for airlift in Japan. In securing the USAF’s requirement to replace these platforms, Boeing beat off bids from Lockheed Martin and Sierra-Nevada Corporation, which were both offering variants of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
In pitching for the requirement, Boeing posited that the MH-139 would be the perfect match for this ‘behind-the-lines’ mission given its low life-cycle costs, which the company put at USD1 billion over the life of the programme. Indeed, the USD2.38 billion awarded is significantly less than the USD4.1 billion originally earmarked for the project.
The MH-139 is also, Boeing said, the optimum size for the role, and is faster and quieter than other platforms being offered. As noted by Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft: Development & Production , the baseline AW139 can accommodate up to 15 passengers on crashworthy seats, while its twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turboshafts give it a maximum take-off weight of 7,000 kg; a maximum payload of 2,540 kg; a hovering service ceiling of 15,360 ft in ground effect and 8,140 ft out of ground effect; a top speed of 167 kt; a range of 1,250 km (no reserves, with auxiliary fuel); and an endurance of 5 h and 12 min (with auxiliary fuel).
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