Air Force Not Buying Any New MH-139 Choppers in 2022 After FAA Certification Delay

The Air Force did not request to buy any new MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters in its fiscal 2022 budget, and fielding will be delayed as the service waits to receive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.

The Air Force received approval to buy eight of the new helicopters in 2021, but the certification issue prevented the purchases. Previous budget documents called for the purchase of eight more in 2022, before the certification delay.

“The FAA requires the MH-139A to obtain an updated certification, because it is a commercial derivative aircraft with military unique equipment that requires certification,” the service said in a statement. “Technical issues discovered during contractor testing have caused the certification delay. The program office is currently evaluating courses of action and will have a better understanding of the program impact in the coming months.”

The helicopter will replace the aging UH-1Ns, which are used for security at the Air Force’s nuclear missile fields, VIP transport in the Air Force District of Washington and Japan, and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape training.

USAF video.

The Air Force wants to buy 84 of the aircraft and had expected it to reach initial operating capability this year. The service originally wanted to replace the UH-1N as part of the 2007 Common Vertical Lift Support Program, before Air Force Global Strike Command was created, but it has repeatedly been delayed.

In November, the Air Force announced it would base the helicopter’s Formal Training Unit at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 12:58 p.m. on June 7 to correct the status of helicopters expected to be purchased in 2021