Grey Wolf squadron activated, new large maintenance vehicle arrives at Malmstrom

Air Force modernization programs were visible at Malmstrom Air Force Base this month.

The Air Force activated the 550th Helicopter Squadron, a new unit at Malmstrom to support the crew transition to the new Grey Wolf helicopters from the current Huey.

The Grey Wolf is the MH-139A helicopter that will replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey fleet, which is used for at the three ICBM bases, as well as civil search and rescue, airlift support, National Capital Region missions and survival school and test support.

Grey Wolf completes another test

The squadron will handle training and conversion to the new helicopter for the next five to seven years under Air Force Global Strike Command.

The new MH-139s will belong to the existing 40th Helicopter Squadron on Malmstrom, but initially the 550th will handle a majority of flying as crews get seasoned and go through the operational test, according to AFGSC.

The 40th currently operates Hueys for security support of Malmstrom’s nuclear missile operations.

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Once the operational test is completed, the 40th will transition to the Grey Wolf, according to AFGSC.

The 550th will lead the transition training for the 40th at Malmstrom, then the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren and the 54th Helicopter Squadron at Minot.

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Once the training schoolhouse for Grey Wolf training is ready at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, the 550th will transfer the training the Maxwell and stand down, according to AFGSC.

The developmental test of the MH-139 is ongoing at Duke Field in Florida, according to AFGSC.

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Testing is set to be competed at the end of the year and when that happens, MH-139As will transition from Florida to Malmstrom for familiarization training for aircrew and support personnel for the initial operational test and evaluation in 2024, according to AFGSC.

Additional low-rate initial production helicopters will begin arriving at Malmstrom in late 2024 and early 2025 to begin initial operating capability, according to AFGSC.

During a May 25 ceremony, Lt. Col. Tyler Williams assumed command of the 550th.

Williams is a Huey pilot who was stationed at Malmstrom from 2013-2017 in a variety of roles.

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Following the helicopter ceremony, the base marked the delivery of the first transporter erector replacement program vehicle in the 20th Air Force of AFGSC.

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The vehicle arrived earlier in May, according to AFGSC.

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The transporter erector replacement program is replacing or refurbishing the parts of the more than 30-year-old vehicles that were “difficult or impossible to repair,” according to AFGSC.

The new vehicle will allow the missile handling teams to more effectively and efficiently perform missile emplacement and removal tasks throughout the 13,000-square-mile missile field without worrying about breakdowns or malfunctions “that have plagued the legacy trucks in recent years,” according to AFGSC.

Photo: A group of 741st Maintenance Squadron Airmen raise the body of a transport erector replacement program vehicle May 8, 2023, at Malmstrom. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mary Bowers