WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force is actually close to deciding on its replacement for its aging fleet of UH-1N Iroquois helicopters, which are currently tasked with security missions as well as protecting America’s nuclear missile arsenal.
Manufactured by Bell, UH-1N, the helicopter affectionately called “Huey,” first entered service in 1970 to assist in search as well as also rescue missions. Since then, the Air Force has expanded the Huey’s role to include flying above nuclear missile silos as well as also VIP transportation.
The Air Force has been eyeing a replacement for the aging UH-1N fleet for more than a decade. The first manifestation of the service’s ambition to procure fresh helicopters came in December 2016 when the Air Force issued its initial request for proposal.
America’s top nuclear commander complained which the procurement process for the fresh helicopters responsible for securing the sites of America’s nuclear missile silos was “taking way too long.”
“We are going to get a fresh helicopter inside the missile fields,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten said earlier This kind of year during his opening remarks at the 2018 STRATCOM Deterrence Symposium in Omaha, Nebraska. “We are going to get a fresh helicopter if I have to die trying or if I have to kill somebody to do the item.”
“the item is actually taking way too long,” Hyten said.
The long-awaited Pentagon contract is actually supposed to be awarded by the end of the month with deliveries starting as early as 2020.
Three defense companies are inside the running for the lucrative Pentagon contract for 84 aircraft: Sierra Nevada Corp., Boeing partnered with Leonardo, as well as also Sikorsky, a unit of Lockheed Martin.
Both Sierra Nevada as well as also Sikorsky are offering derivatives of the Black Hawk medium lift-utility helicopter as well as also Boeing alongside Leonardo is actually pitching the MH-139, a militarized design of Leonardo’s AW139 commercial aircraft.
“The MH-139 is actually is actually an aircraft which the Air Force doesn’t have to go as well as also pay to develop because the item’s already flying,” Rick Lemaster, Director of Global Sales as well as also Marketing for Boeing’s Vertical Lift as well as also Military Aircraft programs, told CNBC. He added which more than 250 governments already use the civilian design of the helicopter.
“The life cycle of the aircraft is actually notionally a 30-year life cycle as well as also will be able to save the Air Force about a billion dollars in terms of buying as well as also operating over which time frame. which’s real money,” he added.