The U.S. Air Force’s newest detachment has been activated at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, in preparation for training pilots for the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter.
The Air Force Reserve Command’s 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell is partnering with Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico-based 58th Operations Group Detachment 3 to launch the full-time training unit at the Alabama base.
The new group is the first active-duty flying training unit based at Maxwell AFB since the end of World War II and comes as the service prepares to take delivery of the MH-139A later this year.
The Air Force plans to buy about 80 of the helicopters set to replace its aging fleet of Bell UH-1N Hueys that perform missions such as off-base nuclear weapons convoy surveillance and routine missile site support. The service has operated the military variant of the Bell 212 since 1970.
“After 60 years of remarkable service, we are taking a significant stride towards the eventual retirement of the Huey fleet and welcoming its replacement,” Colonel Derek Price, commander of the 58th Operations Group, said during the activation ceremony at Maxwell AFB on Wednesday. “Since the inception of the MH-139A Grey Wolf in 2018, it has been a long road of research, development, testing, coordinating with international agencies, battling delays, overcoming logistical challenges, and finding a new home for the [formal training unit].”
Boeing delivered the last of six MH-139A test helicopters to the Air Force in November, marking the transition into low rate initial production. Last month, Boeing announced that the first production MH-139A helicopter had been fully assembled and transferred to Leonardo Helicopters in Philadelphia for flight testing.
According to the service, Detachment 3 will manage helicopter training courseware and syllabi, and assist in providing trained Grey Wolf pilots four major commands, “ensuring aircrew are members [who] are trained and qualified for worldwide employment in nuclear security, VIP transportation operations, and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape training support.”
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