The MH-139 is a Boeing-modified version of the successful Italian-originated AW139 series of medium-lift helicopters produced by Leonardo. It is intended to compete in the newly-announced United States Air Force's UH-1N "Twin Huey" Replacement Program. The UH-1N (Model 212 is its civilian market equivalent) is a twin-engined model of the original Vietnam-era single-engined Huey transport / gunship. However, its design is rooted in Cold War-era doctrine which has required the series to receive regular modernizations to keep the series viable for the short-term - a long-term solution by the USAF is now sought.
The Twin Huey was debuted in 1970 and is in service with a plethora of global operators beyond the United States. The USAF uses these mounts for local security at high-level installations and as VIP transports. At any rate, replacing this proven warrior is a tall order for any interested company.
The AW139 framework promotes a robust, reliable and proven rotary-wing platform that has seen production top nearly 800 examples since series introduction occurred in 2003. Like the Twin Huey, the AW139 has been adopted by a large collection of operators around the world including several American police agencies. The Boeing offering is helped some by the fact that the Italian helicopter is already produced locally in the United States out of Philadelphia.
Outwardly, the MH-139 is a sleek offering the inherent benefits of the existing AW139 with the benefits of Boeing-installed mission equipment. The platform makes use of a two-man crew seated (side-by-side) in an all-modern, all-glass cockpit. Digital color displays dominate the two positions with a shared console in-between. Vision out-of-the-cockpit is excellent thanks to the proven AW139's design spanning over 1.7 million flight hours in various environments worldwide.
The passenger cabin is relatively spacious and features large rectangular rear-sliding doors for easy entry/exit of passengers and the high position of both the main rotor and tail rotor add safety for embarking/disembarking passengers.. There is a position between the pilot seats and passenger area to fit optional pintle-mounted armament for fire suppression by way of machine guns. These are purposely placed so as not to obstruct passenger entry/exit. The cabin can be configured for cargo or passengers as needed - seating fifteen in the latter. Over the starboard side of the fuselage (at the passenger sliding door) can also be installed a rescue hoist for Search and Rescue (SAR) sorties or a cargo winch for cargo-hauling missions. The undercarriage is wheeled at all three legs and fully retractable. The nose mounts sensor turret blister housing a FLIR Star Safire 350HDc high-definition, full-color electro-optical/IR ball.
The MH-139 makes use of a five-bladed main rotor system designed for high-performance and low-noise. It sits low along the fuselage and is mounted atop the twin-engine compartment. The engines are held in a separate engine compartment with individual access to the transmission system. The turbofans are aspirated through side-facing intakes to reduce the change of object ingestion. Furthermore, the systems are developed with inherent InfraRed (IR) reduction of which directional exhaust flow is a part of. Access to the engine units is through large, hinged panels along their sides. The tail rotor is of a four-bladed arrangement set to starboard. It is purposely fitted high atop the tail fin so as to clear ground personnel.
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September 2018 - The United States Air Force has selected the Boeing MH-139 proposal as the direct replacement for its aging fleet of UH-1N Huey transports. The helicopters will be used in general transport, VIP, security, and utility roles for the service. The initial contract covers four MH-139 platforms with first deliveries scheduled for 2021 and final deliveries (of the 84 examples slated for procurement) coming in 2031. The total contract value could reach $2.38 billion USD.
March 2023 - The MH-130A has moved into the production phase of its development. This will conclude with two more developmental-level airframes added to the program.
Leonardo Italy - Italy / Boeing Company - USA Manufacturer(s)
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