Air Force establishes unit to test Huey replacement helicopter

The unit that will support testing and evaluation of the new MH-139A helicopter will stand up later this month at Duke Field in Florida.

Air Force Global Strike Command is standing up Detachment 7 as the command replaces the aging UH-1N Hueys that are used in support of the intercontinental ballistic missile mission.

The Boeing aircraft is the first service-unique helicopter acquired by the Air Force, according to a release, and the first ever acquired by AFGSC.

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“It is a unique and exciting opportunity to lead some of the Air Force’s best Airmen in the acquisition and testing of the MH-139A,” Lt. Col. Mary Clark said in a release. Clark will assume command of Detachment 7 on Dec. 18.

The helicopters will provide security and support for the ICBM fields, which span Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska, with increased range, speed and payload. Other missions include civil search and rescue capabilities; airlift support; National Capital Region missions; survival school and test support.

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The day after assumes command, the Air Force will hold the MH-139A naming and unveiling ceremony at Duke Field, according to the release.

The detachment will work in conjunction with Air Force Materiel Command’s 413th Flight Test Squadron, which is the Air Force’s only dedicated rotary test unit. Detachment 7 brings aircrew manning to the test effort and is comprised of pilots and special mission aviators, according to the release.

The unit will operated in temporary administrative and hangar facilities at Duke Field until it moves to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls to perform additional testing and evaluation of the helicopter, according to the release.

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“The entire unit looks forward to delivering a safe, robust and mission-enhancing helicopter to our peers and the aviators that follow us,” Clark said in the release.

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Detachment 7 will manage four helicopters, with the first scheduled to be delivered Dec. 19 at the naming and unveiling ceremony. The second aircraft is due to arrive mid-January 2020, while the third and fourth aircraft are scheduled to arrive in February.

Malmstrom is expected to be the first missile base to receive the new helicopters.

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The helicopters were acquired from Boeing through an open competition at a cost of $2.38 billion for up to 84 aircraft, which according to the Air Force release, was $1.7 billion under budget. It’s an “off-the-shelf” purchase adding military modifications.