It is announced by US Air Force earlier this week that they have decided to replace their fleet of UH-1N Huey Helicopter by MH-139. USAF has awarded a 375 million dollars firm fixed price contract on September 14th, 2018 for the non developmental item integration of four new helicopters.
If the initial contract goes in perfect manner we are looking at a program valued at 2.4 billion dollars for the following items until 2031.
- 84 helicopters
- Training device
- Associated support equipments
These new helicopters are based on the design of Leonardo AW139 and are being offered by the main contractor Boeing. These choppers are expected to reach the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) until 2021. This will also be the time when these new helicopters are going to b used for replacing the following duties of the old Huey helicopters by USAF.
- Protecting America’s ICBM missile silos
- VIP transportation
- Utility tasks
These new US Air Force MH-139 will be equipped with following upgrades.
- Sensor turret under the nose with electro optical and infrared cameras
- Provision for machine gun mounting
- Possible hoists
In plain words this new helicopter will not be much difference from the HH-139A helicopter which is in service of Italian Air Force currently.
HH-139A is multirole helicopter equipped with following features.
- Integrated NVG-compatible Glass Cockpit
- 4 axis Digital AFCS with SAR modes & FMS SAR patterns
- Weather and search radar
- Traffic Collision Avoidance System
- Forward Looking Infrared
- Health and Usage Monitoring System
- Digital Video recorder
- Video Downlink
- Moving map on flat display
- Auto Deployable ELT
- Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System
Some of the other features offered by HH-139A are as follows.
- Secure communication suite
- Search light
- Wire cutters
- Cargo hook
- Loudspeaker system
- Emergency floatation gear
The helicopters also offers provision for two wing mounted pods for pacing 70 mm unguided rockets.
Due to this Italian air force helicopter’s ability to carry bambi bucket, they can also be used for aerial firefighting activities. In fact since the start of 2018, HH-139A is carrying out the firefighting tasks in Sicily, Italy.