(PatriotWise.com)- Ongoing delays in certifying the Boeing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter has forced the US Air Force to push back production later than expected.
The Grey Wolf program was initially scheduled for a Milestone C decision by the end of fiscal year 2021. Had it stayed on target, this Milestone C decision would have triggered the start of low-rate initial production. But the delays in certification with the FAA are forcing the service to push off the milestone.
The Air Force is in the process of reviewing the acquisition program baseline, but will not say what the new milestone target and threshold dates might be.
The Grey Wolf helicopter is a militarized version of the AW139 commercial helicopter manufactured by Italian aviation firm Leonardo. The AW139 is already certified by the EU Aviation Safety Agency, however, the military-specific technologies on the Grey Wolf need to be tested and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
According Colonel William Rogers, the Air Force’s program executive officer for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and special operations forces, both the USAF and Boeing underestimated how long it would take to obtain supplemental type certifications for the Grey Wolf. These certifications are required to begin development testing and make production decisions.
Matt Beck, system program manager for the MH-139A Grey Wolf, said that the Grey Wolf has obtained one supplemental type certificate and is poised to obtain two more before Christmas. With that, they can move to developmental tests. The other supplemental type certifications should be obtained in the 2022 fiscal year.
The USAF plans to purchase eighty-four Grey Wolf helicopters to replace the UH-1N Huey. The Grey Wolf would be used for missions such as monitoring intercontinental ballistic missile fields, conducting search and rescue operations, and transporting VIPs.
Boeing won a $2.38 billion contract for the Huey replacement program in 2018.
The USAF already purchased eight Grey Wolf helicopters in fiscal year 2021 and expected to purchase another eight in the upcoming fiscal year as well. But during the fiscal year 2022 budget rollout, the Air Force announced that it would pause procurement to allow time for the FAA certification.