Boeing Co. was awarded a large contract to supply the US Air Force with new helicopters to guard intercontinental ballistic missile bases across the US, the Pentagon said.
The contract calls for 84 Boeing MH-139, a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined helicopter developed and produced by AgustaWestland in Northeast Philadelphia, will replace the service's aging Bell UH-1 Iroquois fleet, currently guarding nuclear bases in Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota.
The Pentagon announced the contract on Sept. 24, is worth more than $375 million and covers the first four MH-139 helicopters, which the Air Force expects to take delivery by 2021. If all goes well, the full value of the contract would unlock, an estimated $2.4 billion, and supply the Air Force with 84 new helicopters and other maintenance services through 2031.
"Strong competition drove down costs for the program, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayers," Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a separate statement.
"A safe, secure and effective nuclear enterprise is job one," Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, said. "It is imperative that we field a capable and effective helicopter to replace UH-1Ns providing security for our ICBMs [interconniental ballistic missiles] and nuclear deterrence operations."
According to The Drive, the MH-139 for the Air Force will have high-tech sensors and machine guns on either side of the craft, among other weapons that are classified.
Depending on the MH-139's mission, there are sub-variants of the helicopter for different tasks, such as search and rescue, transport, surveillance, and even an attack version.
However, its most visible mission will be conducting surveillance operations at ICBM silos and responding to any threats to those sites with machine guns and laser-guided missiles. There are also reports that some of these helicopters will be transporting nuclear warheads around the country.