Montgomery, AL

Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, AL will Become the Main Training Hub for the Boeing MH-139A 'Grey Wolf'

Zack Love

An exciting new assignment is coming as the Air Force Reserve’s 908th Airlift Wing. Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery will become the future training hub for pilots of Boeing’s MH-139A “Grey Wolf” helicopter making its debut at Air Force Bases across the country.

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MH-139A "Grey Wolf"U.S. Air Force

Four new and powerful MH-139A “Grey Wolf“ helicopters are touring the country, visiting selected Air Force Bases and generating a lot of excitement for the latest technology that is set to replace the Vietnam-era Bell UH-1N Huey helicopters in service since the 1970s.

With the excitement comes news for the Air Force Reserve’s 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

AirForceTimes reported that the Air Force Reserve’s 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base “will become the main hub for training pilots to fly the new MH-139 Grey Wolf.” 

The 908th Airlift Wing has been known for the past 40 years for taking the C-130 Hercules into combat. The 908th switched to models of the C-130 Hercules starting in 1983. (Source: Air Force Times)

Colonel Craig Drescher spoke to Air Force Times about this new and challenging mission.

He said:

“It’s the hardest, most complicated, multifaceted [mission change] the Air Force has ever taken on.

Not only is it hard to go from a fixed-wing, combat-coded unit to a rotary-wing formal training unit, but we’re talking about an airframe that hasn’t even come off the factory floor yet,” Drescher said. “We don’t have anything stood up. We’re having to create everything as we go.” Col. Craig Drescher, Air Force (Source: Air Force Times)

Drescher explained to Air Force Times, “the airlift wing needed to get rid of its increasingly unreliable Hercs, and the Air Force needed a place to train MH-139 aircrews. So, military planners seized the opportunity to “accelerate change or lose.” (Source: Air Force Times)

With this new mission, Maxwell AFB is expected to eventually get 10 MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters. According to Col. Drescher, Maxwell AFB is not expected to have any trained instructors until January 2024, and is not expected to bring in students until late 2026. (Source: Air Force Times)

The Core Mission Remains the Same as the 'Huey' but with More Capabilities

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Side-by-side comparison MH-139A vs. UH-1NGraphic: Mike Tsukamoto and Dash Parham, Photos: Samuel King and Devin Doskey (USAF)

The mission of the Boeing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters will remain the same as it was for the Bell UH-1N Huey helicopters: Protect our nation’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and transport security forces or U.S. government officials as needed. However, the MH-139A will be capable of much more.

AFGSC Commander Gen. Timothy Ray said that when the first MH-139 was delivered in mid-December. “It even has the new car smell.”

He said:

“We’re going to do more things with this aircraft than we could ever do with the Huey.” -General Timothy Ray, AFGSC Commander (Source: Air and Space Forces)

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MH-139A "Grey Wolf"Boeing

AviationPros reported that “funding for the helicopters was through the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and the Defense Appropriations Bill.” Air Force officials said, "it is the first major acquisition for the command in its 10-year history."

The MH-139A Grey Wolves Are Touring Select U.S. Air Force Bases

KSVI News reported that four MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters visited the Malstrom Air Force Base (AFB) in Cascade County, Montana at the end of October 2022.

Malstrom AFB is where they are expected to permanently reside after initial tours of various Air Force bases. The aircraft also visited Minot AFB in North Dakota and Warren AFB in Wyoming.

The Air Force published on its website in June 2022 that “Joint Base Andrews, Maryland is the fourth location to host MH-139A Grey Wolves.”

A Brief Timeline of Events for the MH-139A ‘Grey Wolf’ helicopter

The following is a brief timeline of events for the MH-139 helicopter as it evolved into the MH-139A “Grey Wolf” in recent times:

  • On 2 March 2017, Boeing first “unveiled its MH-139 helicopter in the competition to replace the U.S. Air Force’s UH-1N “Huey” fleet.” 

The MH-139 helicopter is based on the Leonardo AW139 platform, “which is used by more than 270 governments, militaries and companies worldwide.” (Source: Boeing, 2017)

David Koopersmith, then vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift in 2017, commented on what Boeing will deliver to the U.S. Air Force with the MH-139.

He said:

“This Northeast Philadelphia-built [Leonardo*] aircraft is sized to meet U.S. Air Force requirements and offers more than $1 billion in acquisition and lifecycle expense savings over 30 years when compared to competitor aircraft.” -David Koopersmith, former vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift (Source: Boeing, 2017)

*Leonardo produces the helicopter in northeast Philadelphia and Boeing is responsible for “military equipment procurement, installation, and post-delivery support of the aircraft.” (Source: Boeing, 2022)

  • On 24 September 2018, Boeing received an order for 84 MH-139 helicopters, worth $2.4 billion, so the Air Force could replace the aging Bell UH-1N “Huey” fleet, which first entered into service in the 1970s. (Source: Boeing, 2018)
  • “The Air Force dubbed the MH-139A helicopter the “Grey Wolf” during a 2020 naming ceremony at Duke Field, Florida. Grey wolves strike “fear in the hearts of many,” General Timothy Ray said. “Its range is absolutely inherent to the intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] fields we have." -General Timothy Ray, AFGSC Commander (Source: Air and Space Forces
  • On 25 August 2022, Boeing delivered four MH-139A “Grey Wolf” helicopters to Eglin AFB, Florida. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified the Grey Wolf to begin military utility testing.

KSVI News reported that these first four MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters delivered to the U.S. Air Force will “permanently reside” at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Cascade County, Montana.

Boeing’s MH-139A is “The Future of Missile Security & Airlift Missions”

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MH-139A "Grey Wolf"Boeing

On Boeing’s website homepage for the MH-139A, it highlights why the MH-139A is built for military performance.

It reads:

“With unmatched systems integration, a state-of-the-art avionics system, and advanced flight deck functionality, the modern MH-139A provides unrivaled operational flexibility and performance that will serve the U.S. Air Force for decades to come. Key benefits of the aircraft include:

  • Cruises 50% faster, flies 50% farther, has a 30% larger cabin, and can lift 5,000 more pounds than the legacy platform, while introducing full autopilot capability to reduce pilot workload
  • State-of-the-art avionics system with advanced flight deck functionality and improved situational awareness resulting in reduced crew workload
  • Right-sized aircraft for maximum operational efficiency and lower operating & support costs
  • An off-the-shelf, readily available solution that leverages repurposed technologies from proven Boeing Rotorcraft programs to guarantee performance, flexibility & safety”

(Source: Boeing MH-139A homepage)

The 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, AL

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MH-139A Grey Wolf at sunsetKSVI News

As the sun sets on the C-130 Hercules aircraft, the Air Force Reserve's 908th Airlift Wing has a new mission on the horizon and will rise to the challenge of training the future pilots of the MH-139A Grey Wolf at Maxwell AFB.

These are exciting times, and this advanced helicopter fleet will protect America from threats domestically and potentially abroad.

Please share this article with others on social media so they can stay informed.

Sources

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs. “New MH-139 Grey Wolves will go to Joint Base Andrews.” Air Force. 7 June 2022.

Boeing News Release: “Boeing Launches Proven, Affordable MH-139 in U.S. Air Force Helicopter Competition.” Boeing.mediaroom.com. 2 March 2017.

Boeing News Release: “Boeing MH-139 to Replace U.S. Air Force UH-1N Huey Fleet.” Boeing.mediaroom.com. 24 September 2018.

Boeing News Release: “Boeing Delivers Four MH-139A Test Helicopters to U.S. Air Force.” Boeing.mediaroom.com. 25 August 2022.

Cohen, Rachel. “A longtime C-130 unit is trying something new: helicopters.” AirForceTimes. 10 October 2022.

Drake, Phil. “New Grey Wolf Helicopter Makes a Stop at Malmstrom.” AviationPros. 4 November 2022.

Everstine, Brian. "The Grey Wolf Arrives." Air and Space Forces. 1 March 2020.

Frost, Kietyn. “Air Force helicopter visits Montana base.” KSVI News (YourBigSky.com). 4 November 2022.

Note: The author has no affiliation or stock holdings with Boeing, NYSE: BA at the time of publication.

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Zack covers interesting and inspiring news stories that impact local communities. He has a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

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