The US Air Force (USAF) has selected the MH-139 helicopter, based on the Leonardo AW139, for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) protection and government transport missions, Leonardo announced on 25 September. Up to 84 helicopters, plus training devices and associated support equipment, will be provided by prime contractor Boeing in a deal valued at $2.4 billion. Initial operational readiness is required by 2021 to replace the existing ageing fleet of UH-1N HUEY helicopters.
The MH-139 leverages the Leonardo AW139, a modern, non-developmental, multi-mission helicopter that is in service worldwide and has already demonstrated its capabilities in protecting critical infrastructure and transporting government personnel in various nations. The MH-139 is the right-sized aircraft for the mission, exceeds USAF’s speed, payload, range, armament and survivability requirements for protecting ICBM bases, and is perfect for VIP transport. The type features modern design and the best level of affordability, with a saving of $1 billion in acquisition and lifecycle costs over the life of the fleet. The aircraft is assembled at the Leonardo plant in Philadelphia, with additional components to be integrated into the military MH-139 at the Boeing Philadelphia facility.
“We are extremely proud of this outstanding result. Major customers continue to rely on Leonardo to meet the most stringent requirements, like the critical mission of protecting missile bases and transporting government personnel and Special Forces. This selection is also testament to Leonardo as a strong, reliable partner and long-established contributor to the US industry,” commented Leonardo CEO, Alessandro Profumo.
“We are happy that the USAF has selected our team to deliver a new fleet of Philadelphia-built MH-139s. Our Air Force deserves the best tools; this is the right helicopter for their mission. The more than $125 million investment made by Leonardo in the Philadelphia facility demonstrates that we are fully prepared to execute in support of this contract. We look forward to working with Boeing on this programme and we’re committed to deliver according to expectations of the prime contractor, the US Government and taxpayers," added AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation CEO, William Hunt.
The Boeing-Leonardo team beat off industry competition from Sikorsky and Sierra Nevada Corp.