Is This the UH-1N Huey’s Replacement?

Boeing unveils its concept for a successor to the Huey helicopter. Will the military adopt it?

The MH-139 helicopter, Boeing's bid to replace the venerable UH-1N Huey. (Image courtesy of Boeing.)

The MH-139 helicopter, Boeing’s bid to replace the venerable UH-1N Huey. (Image courtesy of Boeing.)

Since 1970, the UH-1N “Huey” has been a workhorse for the United States Marines, Airforce and Navy. Used in conflicts ranging from Vietnam to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the helicopter has earned the reputation of being a reliable and versatile tool for transport, reconnaissance and extraction. It even serves a role in safeguarding intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

However, the US’s Huey fleet is aging and military brass are looking to replace the craft with a modern model. In a bid to secure the contract for that replacement Boeing recently unveiled its vision for the services new mainstay chopper.

Named the MH-139, the new helicopter is based on the Leonardo Helicopters’ AW139 which is currently being used by more than 250 governments, militaries and companies around the globe. Since they first rolled off the line in 2003, over 250 AW139s have been delivered, a point which Boeing is betting will give the company an edge over competitors looking to secure the lucrative helicopter contract. In fact, Boeing believes that since the MH-139 already has a built up production line, the military stands to save USD $1 billion over the course of the 30 year contract.

“The Huey replacement is of vital importance to the Air Force, and the MH-139 is the right solution for those missions,” said Judy Fedder, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing Integrated Logistics. “The fact that the AW139 is being built today on an active production line will speed it to meet the time-critical demand following the competition.”

All in all the US military is looking to acquire 84 new choppers to replace the ageing fleet. Given the fact that the Huey has been used in such a variety of ways, any successor will have some big shoes to fill. The fact that the AW139 is already performing in so many roles across the globe might be good signal that it’s up to the task of replacing such an iconic aircraft.

For more military news, read about Weapons Engineering: Augmented Reality on the Battlefield.