Malmstrom construction underway to prepare for new helicopters

Malmstrom Air Force Base is currently scheduled to be the first base to receive the MH-139 helicopters that will replace the Hueys currently in use.

Lt. Col. Alex Mignery,  commander of the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron, said Friday that the phased delivery of 11 new helicopters is estimated to begin in 2021.

The Air Force is working on the environmental assessment now, Mignery said during Ignite Great Falls, hosted by the Great Falls Development Authority.

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But there’s a lot of work to be done before the base is ready to receive the new helicopters.

The new helicopters, manufactured by Boeing, will require construction of several new facilities and renovation of the existing three-bay hangar.

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Mignery said the helicopters will be housed in the hangar, pushing some functions out, such as missile maintenance dispatch.

The project also includes a new facility for the tactical response force and the helicopter operations airmen. They’ll be co-located, making it quicker and more efficient when they need to leave in a hurry to get to the missile field.

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The construction contract was awarded to Swank Construction in July 2018 for the $17.4 million project that will support 75 helicopter operations personnel and 75 security forces airmen, Mignery said.

That project is underway and slated for completion in 2020.

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The missile maintenance dispatch facility is 43,500 square feet of new construction. Bids are out now and the Air Force expects to award the construction contract in April for completion in spring 2020, Mignery said.

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A new weapons storage area is in the design phase and Malmstrom is slated to be one of the first bases for that project. Mignery said a contract award is expected in 2020.

The Hueys from the first bases to receive MH-139s will be transferred to other bases to help cover mission shortfalls, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Once the MH-139 has reached full operational capacity for critical missions, the Air Force will begin to divest aircraft, following a standard process where a prioritized list of potential customers can acquire the aircraft and those that remain unclaimed will go to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, according to AFGSC.

Specific dates for divestiture will depend on how many MH-139s are acquired each year, and the Air Force’s capacity to transition. These dates remain notional at this point, according to AFGSC.