The Air Force has selected Joint Base Andrews, Md., as the next location to receive the new MH-139 helicopter. If the selection is finalized, the Grey Wolf will replace the aging UH-1N Huey and expand the installation’s fleet size.
In a June 7 release, the service said Andrews will receive 25 of the new helicopters. Currently, the base’s 1st Helicopter Squadron has 21 UH-1Ns. As a result of the increase, the manpower needed will also rise, from 235 personnel to approximately 310.
An environmental assessment needs to occur before the final basing decision is announced. The Air Force release projects that the assessment will finish in the summer of 2023.
Once Andrews gets the MH-139, it will join Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., as bases with the new aircraft. Malmstrom is scheduled to get the helicopter first, followed by F.E. Warren and Minot.
At each of those three locations, the Grey Wolf will primarily be used to patrol sprawling intercontinental ballistic missile fields. At Andrews, however, it will assist in missions such as transportation of government officials and distinguished visitors around the Washington, D.C., area as well as emergency evacuations and search and rescue.
In addition to its four permanent homes, the MH-139 will also have its formal training unit at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., a decision announced in 2020.
The Grey Wolf is slated to provide a major upgrade over the UH-1N, capable of flying faster, higher, farther, and with more weight. The UH-1 has been flying since the Vietnam War, attaining iconic status.
However, the new airframe has run into some issues. In 2022, the Air Force cut its buy of the helicopter completely as fielding was delayed by issues with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification. That has resulted in a lengthy delay, according to media reports, that is still being worked out.
Still, the Air Force’s fiscal 2023 budget asks to buy five MH-139s, and officials say the plan remains to buy 80 of the helos. In addition to Malmstrom, Minot, F.E. Warren, and Andrews, previous reports have indicated that Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and Yokota Air Base, Japan, may also receive MH-139s in the future.