MH-139 Manufacturing Resolution Coming in Weeks; New Squadron Standing Up As Effectively

After months of delays and a brand new report elevating questions on its worthiness, the Air Pressure is nearing a key manufacturing determination for its new MH-139 Gray Wolf helicopter—and laying the groundwork to make sure forces are prepared when it arrives. 

The Air Pressure Life Cycle Administration Heart mentioned it’s “on monitor” for the “Milestone C” manufacturing determination in February or March, AFLCMC spokesman Brian Brackens confirmed to Air & Area Forces Journal.  

Army flight testing started in August after a yearlong FAA certification delay. Final week, in its annual report, the Pentagon’s Workplace of the Director of Operational Take a look at & Analysis (DOT&E) warned there won’t be sufficient time for testing earlier than the anticipated manufacturing determination.  

However Brackens mentioned in an electronic mail that the manufacturing determination gained’t come till the Air Pressure has “carried out ample flight testing to allow completion of all Milestone C entry standards.”

Malmstrom Air Pressure Base, Mont., would be the first operational base for the Gray Wolf plane and can host a lot of the operational testing, whereas Maxwell Air Pressure Base, Ala., will host the MH-139’s Formal Coaching Unit.

Becoming a member of a panel dialogue hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Research on Jan. 24, Maj. Gen. Michael J. Lutton, commander of the twentieth Air Pressure, mentioned he’s standing up a provisional helicopter squadron at Malmstrom now to make sure operational testing and coaching stays on schedule.

“It’ll be the 550th Helicopter Squadron, and its sole focus will probably be on coaching, whereas our teammates at Maxwell ramp up their coaching functionality,” Lutton mentioned. “That squadron will arise someday this February and take that mission for 5 years.” 

Air Pressure International Strike Command and the twentieth Air Pressure have employed provisional helicopter models earlier than. In 2014, AFGSC stood up the twentieth Air Pressure Helicopter Operations Group (Provisional), to “establish, prioritize and create the ability, personnel, communication and course of infrastructure” wanted because the command shifted management of its helicopter squadrons from particular person base’s missile wings to 1 group. 

The fortieth Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom was a type of models and now flies the UH-1N Huey, which the Gray Wolf will change. The helicopters fly patrol, escort, and transportation missions to assist the bottom’s sprawling missile fields.  

Malmstrom Airmen bought a sneak peek on the MH-139 in November, when 4 landed on their approach from Colorado after testing. Lutton mentioned the Air Pressure can be supporting an alternate program with the Irish Air Corps, which flies AW139 helicopters on which the MH-139 relies. Pilots, flight engineers, and safety forces members have all had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the helicopters’ capabilities. A extra in-depth alternate is within the works. 

“International Strike Command, twentieth Air Pressure, and headquarters [U.S. Air Forces in Europe are]… trying to notice an alternate program with the Italian Air Pressure this summer season the place considered one of our helo pilots will go over to Italy for 3 years and fly their model of the 139 after which come again into our 139 neighborhood,” Lutton mentioned. 

The twentieth Air Pressure workforce of pilots, flight engineers and safety forces members pose for a bunch picture with the Irish Air Corps (IAC) leaders and Ambassador Claire Cronin, U.S. ambassador to Eire, Nov. 2, 2022, at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Eire. The U.S. workforce spent every week with the IAC to boost their understanding of the AW139 helicopter in preparation for his or her transition to the MH-139. U.S. Air Pressure picture by 1st Lt. Emily Seaton

Lutton mentioned the target is to totally leverage what the Gray Wolf can do, fairly than apply Huey ways and procedures to a extra fashionable and succesful plane. Paraphrasing former AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy M. Ray, Lutton mentioned, “What we’re not trying to do is develop ‘outdated new,’ proper? So we have now a brand new weapons system with the Gray Wolf. … It might be utterly incorrect to export each [tactic, technique, and procedure] from the Huey and apply it to the Gray Wolf. It might be utterly incorrect to export the usual standard load, if you’ll, of our defenders on a Huey and say that’s what we’d like on a Gray Wolf.”

Making ready to deliver on new functionality and a contemporary plane is difficult and motivating, Lutton mentioned. “I feel these are thrilling instances.” 

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