The Air Force Global Strike Command’s new MH-139A helicopter — an armored aircraft that will primarily be used to transport base defenders to nuclear missile silos — is headed to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for testing this month, according to the command.
Ahead of the first aircraft’s arrival Dec. 19 at a naming and unveiling ceremony at Duke Field, Air Force Global Strike Command is slated to stand up Detachment 7 to support testing of a total of four helicopters.
The other aircraft are slated for delivery in January and February.
Lt. Col. Mary Clark will assume command of the detachment — pilots and special missions aviators who will coordinate with Air Force Materiel Command’s 413th Flight Test Squadron on testing.
“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,” Clark said, according to an Air Force news release.
“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 is housed in temporary administrative and hangar facilities at Eglin — for now. Once testing and evaluation of the aircraft concludes, the detachment will head to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana for more testing.
Air Force Global Strike Command Commander Gen. Tim Ray told reporters in September that operational helicopters are slated to arrive in fiscal 2021, according to Air Force Magazine.
He also said not as much developmental testing of the aircraft would occur, given that it’s the militarized version of Leonardo’s commercial AW139 helicopter.
The MH-139A helicopters will replace the Air Force’s Vietnam-era UH-1N Huey helicopters that guard intercontinental ballistic missile fields in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. The aircraft are also employed for VIP and personnel transport.
The Air Force awarded Boeing a $2.38 billion contract last year to manufacture the aircraft. The service is planning to purchase a total of 84 new helicopters.