GREAT FALLS –
The U.S. Air Force is holding a competition to replace their aging UH-1 “Huey” helicopter fleet which has been in use since the Vietnam War.
In Montana, the “Hueys” currently serve and protect Malmstrom Air Force Base, and play a critical role in search and rescue missions in the region.
Boeing has entered the competition with their aircraft known as the MH-139, which is used by more than 250 companies and countries globally.
The military capabilities on the aircraft include: missile warning sensors, flare dispensers to throw off heat seeking missiles, machine guns, and more.
Boeing Military Business Development Director Rick Lemaster explained: “It’s about the same footprint as the Huey is but with this you’ve got about 30% more cabin room inside the main part of the cabin here because you don’t have the transition down in the middle of it.”
Unlike large combat helicopters, Boeing officials say the midsize commercial aircraft is militarized specifically for the mission specified in the Air Force’s UH-1 “Huey” Replacement Program. They say that the costs of maintenance and parts for the midsize aircraft are cheaper than their competitors aircrafts.
“The aircraft is really the right size right kind of aircraft for this particular mission. / This is really not a combat mission. It doesn’t really require a combat aircraft,” explained Lemaster
The U.S. Air Force is looking to purchasing up to 84 helicopters to replace the aging “Huey” fleet. The replacement helicopters will provide security at the nation’s Intercontinental Ballistic missile sites, and they will also provide transportation for VIP officials in Washington D.C.”
Boeing officials told KRTV that the MH-139 offers hoisting capabilities needed for search and rescue missions, and with faster speeds and greater carrying capacity than the “Hueys,” they say the MH-139 will do the job better in every respect than the “Huey” helicopters if Boeing is awarded the contract.
The Air Force will make their decision by early next year, and they aim to have the replacement helicopters operating out of Malmstrom Air Force Base by year 2020.