Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray announced Thursday the helicopter will now be known as the "Grey Wolf" as the command took delivery of its first MH-139 at Duke Field, Florida.
The announcement closely follows the creation of Global Strike's new detachment -- Detachment 7 -- at Duke, which will support testing and evaluation of the new helicopter.
In September, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N helicopter, at a cost of approximately $2.38 billion. The award contract stipulates approximately $375 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration. The aircraft is based on the AW-139, Leonardo's commercial version of the helicopter.
The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.
In August, pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, received the certification needed to fly the MH-139. Air Force officials said at the time that receiving the helicopter would mark "the first time in recent history" that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft "not previously used in another branch of the military."
The 413th -- the Air Force's only dedicated rotary test unit -- and Detachment 7 will work closely with one another until the detachment is eventually reestablished at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, the service said in a recent release.
The MH-139A also marks the first aircraft ever acquired by AFGSC.
"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," Brig. Gen. Andrew Gebara, AFGSC A5/8 director, said on Dec.18.
The UH-1Ns -- some of which entered the Air Force's inventory in 1970 -- will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.
The ICBM overwatch mission spans Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. The new helicopter will close "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," the release said.
The Air Force also named another one of its Boeing-manufactured aircraft this year.
In September, officials introduced the service's new trainer jet as the T-7A Red Hawk -- known previously as the T-X -- in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. The service has committed to buying 351 T-7A jets, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.