Air Force Global Strike Command stood up Detachment 7, Dec. 18, at Duke Field, to support testing and evaluation of the command’s new MH-139A helicopter.
Lt. Col. Mary Clark assumed command of the detachment with Brig. Gen. Andrew Gebara, AFGSC A5/8 director, presiding over the ceremony. The helicopters were contracted through Boeing during a full and open competition at a cost of $2.38 billion for up to 84 aircraft – $1.7 billion under budget. It is the command’s first commercial “off-the-shelf” purchase, adding military-unique modifications.
“I’m here to tell you, this is a big deal,” Gebara said during the ceremony. “It is hard to overstate just how much blood sweat and tears have gone into getting this helicopter into our United States Air Force (and) standing up this detachment. We are very excited in Air Force Global Strike Command. We cannot wait to get this out to the missile fields and the national capital region where it needs to be.”
The detachment received the first MH-139A helicopter during a naming and unveiling ceremony Dec. 19. The MH-139A is the first service-unique helicopter acquired by the Air Force and the first aircraft ever acquired by AFGSC. It will replace the early 1970s UH-1N Huey.
The helicopters will provide security and support for the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields which span Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. The new helicopter closes the capability gaps of the UH-1N in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability in support of the command’s intercontinental ballistic missile missions. Other mission capabilities include civil search and rescue, airlift support, National Capital Region missions, as well as survival school and test support.
The detachment will work in conjunction with Air Force Materiel Command’s 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s only dedicated rotary test unit. Detachment 7 brings vital aircrew manning to the test effort and is comprised of pilots and special mission aviators.
Currently, the unit resides in temporary administrative and hangar facilities on Duke Field. The detachment will eventually move to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, to perform additional testing and evaluation of the aircraft.
“I want you all to know you are special,” Clark said, speaking to those Airmen under her charge during the ceremony. “You were selected to fly, test and field this aircraft, literally writing the book on this helicopter for aviators that will follow us for 50 years or more.”
Detachment 7 will manage four helicopters. The second aircraft is due to arrive mid-January 2020, while the third and fourth aircraft are scheduled to arrive in February.
“We’re going to put this helicopter through its paces,” Gebara said.
The MH-139A helicopters will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of five Air Force major commands and operating agencies: Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force District of Washington, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Pacific Air Forces. AFGSC is the lead command and operational capability requirements sponsor.