Malmstrom still set to receive new helicopter first, no change in delivery order
Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines said earlier this week that Malmstrom Air Force Base would be the first to receive the MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopter that is replacing the UH-1N Huey.
That wasn’t new information and had been the case since at least January 2019 when the commander of the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron said at the Great Falls Development Authority’s Ignite event that Malmstrom was scheduled to receive the MH-139 helicopters first.
The Electric reported that here: Malmstrom construction underway to prepare for new helicopters
In December 2019, the Air Force said in a press release that Malmstrom would be the first base to receive the new helicopters.
The Electric reported that here: Grey Wolf is name given to helicopter that will replace Hueys at Malmstrom
Col. Jennifer Reeves, then commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom, told City Commissioners in January that the base would receive the new helicopters first.
According to Air Force officials, nothing had changed since that time that would have sent the helicopters to another base first.
In December 2019, the Air Force established Detachment 7, the unit that will support testing and evaluation of the new helicopter.
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 an Air Force 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.
Delivery of the helicopters has been delayed, Malmstrom officials said the most current schedule shows the Grey Wolf arriving in September 2022 and has the Malmstrom unit fully operational, meaning the Grey Wolf is the primary airframe, by September 2024.
Malmstrom officials said their schedule shows the MH-139 beginning to take over the missile field security mission in September 2023.
Air Force Global Strike Command officials said that the new helicopters would start arriving at Malmstrom in 2023, followed by F.E. Warren and Minot AFBs.
There’s no timeline available yet on when pilots and crews will receive their assignments to the MH-139 or begin training on the new airframe, but on Nov. 20, the Air Force announced that Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama had been selected as the preferred location to host the MH-139 formal training unit.
The training unit’s mission is to train pilots on the MH-139 and will replace the Air Force Reserve’s 908th Airlift Wing’s C-130H unit currently at Maxwell, according to the Air Force release.
“The Air Force will now conduct an environmental impact analysis before making its final basing decision in the winter of 2021. The first aircraft are scheduled to arrive in 2023,” according to the Air Force release.
The new helicopter required a new tactical response force/helicopter operations alert facility at Malmstrom. Construction of the $17.4 million facility is complete but not yet fully in use. The base held a ribbon cutting for the facility in August thought it wasn’t complete at the time.
The facility will house the 341st Security Forces Group Tactical Response Force alongside the 40th Helicopter Squadron. The TRF teams and 40th HS crews work in tandem to provide missile field security.
The 40th will maintain control of their current facility in addition to the new facility, according to Malmstrom officials.
The construction contract was awarded to Swank Enterprises in July 2018 and construction began in August 2018.
Malmstrom’s new facility that allows TRF and helicopter operations to co-locate is a first among the Air Force Global Strike Command’s three intercontinental ballistic missile bases, according to the Air Force.
The new helicopters coming in also required the construction of a new $18.7 million missile maintenance dispatch facility, which is about halfway done, according to Malmstrom officials.
In June 2019, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract to a joint venture between WHH Nisqually and Garco for the project and contractors broke ground last year. The missile maintenance dispatch facility is 43,500 square feet of new construction.
The new missile maintenance facility is being built because the functions that would occupy that building are being displaced from their current location in the existing three-bay hangar. That hangar is being renovated to house the new MH-139 helicopters that are coming to replace the current UH-1N Huey fleet.