The Boeing/Leonardo MH-139 Grey Wolf multi-mission helicopter has entered low-rate initial production (LRIP) for the USW Air Force (USAF), Leonardo announced on 9 March 2023.

The announcement follows the USAF reaching a positive Milestone C decision on 3 March and then on 7 March issuing a USD 285 M (EUR M) LRIP contract for the first 13 helicopters, with first deliveries slated for 2024.

Based on Leonardo’s proven AW139 helicopter, the MH-139 is designed to protect US intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) sites and well as transport government officials and security forces. The type was selected as a largely off-the-shelf solution in September 2018 to replace the more than 40-year-old UH-1N Huey helicopters used to protect US ICBM bases, with the Boeing/Leonardo team awarded a USD 2.4 Bn contract for up to 84 helicopters, training systems and associated support equipment.

An MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Florida on 19 December 2019 before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to protect US ICBM sites, replace the USAF’s fleet of UH-1N Hueys. (Photo: USAF)

Boeing claims on its website that the MH-139 “cruises 50% faster, flies 50% farther, has a 30% larger cabin, and can lift 5,000 more pounds [2,268 kg] than the legacy platform, while introducing full autopilot capability to reduce pilot workload”.

The MH-139s are assembled by original equipment manufacturer Leonardo at its production facility in northeast Philadelphia, while Boeing is responsible for integrating military-specific components at its facility just south of that city and well as supporting the aircraft in service.

The first four MH-139s were delivered to the USAF for testing in August 2022.

Peter Felstead