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Pentagon budget 2023: USAF moves ‘Huey' replacement into production

Boeing's MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter for the US Air Force. (US Air Force)

After a pause last year, the US Air Force (USAF) has requested funding to buy its first five Boeing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters in a programme to replace the service's fleet of 63 UH-1Ns.

For fiscal year (FY) 2023 the USAF asked for USD156.2 million in procurement and USD17.9 million in research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) funding for the MH-139A.

That funding would buy “the low rate initial production lot of five aircraft in FY 2023 with associated initial spares, support equipment, site activation support, training, publications and technical data, and other program management administration activities”, according to Pentagon documents released on 28 March.

A contract for the type was awarded in September 2018 to a Boeing-Leonardo team, with initial operational fielding planned for FY 2023. The award is a USD2.38 billion contract to manufacture up to 80 new helicopters to service nuclear missile silos, among other things. The platform is a militarised version of the commercial AW139 helicopter. In FY 2022, the USAF requested USD16.1 million in RDT&E, but no procurement.

There were issues with two US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications; one is complete and the other is expected in the next few months, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget Major General James D Peccia III told reporters at the Pentagon.

The replacement aircraft will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of four Air Force major commands and operating agencies: AFGSC, Air Force District of Washington, Air Education and Training Command, and Air Force Material Command, the Pentagon said.

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