Lifetime Cost of New Nuclear Patrol Helicopter Pegged at $18.6B

Boeing and Leonardo are teaming up to build the new MH-139 helicopter, which the Air Force says will cost nearly $19 billion over its lifetime, to patrol nuclear missile fields and fly certain transport missions. Boeing photo.

The Air Force’s new fleet of MH-139 helicopters, provided by Boeing and Leonardo, is expected to cost nearly $19 billion over the course of its life, the service said in a report to lawmakers that Air Force Magazine viewed this week.

A September 2018 service cost position for the UH-1N Huey replacement program, for which the Air Force chose the MH-139 last September, set the total life cycle cost at $18.6 billion, according to Will Roper, the service’s acquisition executive.

A Boeing spokesman said Tuesday the price tag was based on a comparison with the UH-60 Black Hawk, variants of which were offered in the competition by Sikorsky and Sierra Nevada Corp.

Boeing said it doesn’t have comparative data for how the chopper’s anticipated long-term maintenance and upgrade costs stack up against the UH-1N it is replacing at nuclear missile fields and for certain transport missions.

An Air Force spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment as of Thursday morning.

The Boeing spokesman added the first MH-139 is on track for delivery by the end of the year.

In another report, Roper noted that a preliminary design review could increase costs, delay the program by six to 12 months, and cause an “unacceptable national security risk.”

The MH-139 design includes mature systems that need minor modifications to meet the Air Force’s requirements.