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US Air Force certifies Boeing MH-139 for production, purchases 13

The MH-139A in December 2019 at Duke Field in Florida. (US Air Force)

The US Air Force (USAF) on 7 March approved the Boeing MH-139 for production and issued a contract for 13 low-rate initial production (LRIP) helicopters.

The Boeing MH-139, a derivative of the Leonardo AW-139, is intended to replace the Bell UH-1 in USAF service for β€˜VIP transport' in Washington, DC, and security troops in nuclear missile fields.

β€œWe have a few more certification activities that we're working on,” Boeing programme manager Azeem Khan told Janes . β€œIt's tied to the seating configuration, fuelling apparatus, expanding the envelope, and then the defensive aid suites.” Boeing hopes to have those completed and receive Federal Aviation Administration approval in the second quarter of 2023.

Boeing has delivered four MH-139s to date – currently in USAF testing at Duke Field, Florida – and two more are scheduled for delivery by July.

The USAF has expressed concerns about acquiring full data rights from the MH-139, but Khan told Janes that Boeing has little concern about the issue. β€œWe developed a plan, [we are] working with Leonardo, and we are jointly reviewing that plan with the air force,” said Khan. β€œIt's going to be a plan that both sides have signed up [for], and we have a detailed schedule on how we're going to work through that source data.”

Exports of the MH-139 are a possibility, said Khan. β€œWe're looking at opportunities outside of the US Air Force programme of record. But our focus today remains on delivering on our air force customers' commitments.”

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