Duke Field at Eglin Air Force Base will be getting a new detachment for testing and evaluation of the Air Force’s new MH-139A helicopter. The new helicopter will provide security and support for the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile installations in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. Other missions for the new helicopter will include civil search and rescue, airlift support and test support.

EGLIN AFB — The Air Force’s newest helicopter will be evaluated and tested at Eglin Air Force Base’s Duke Field, which will be getting a new unit next week to do that work.

An assumption of command ceremony for the new Detachment 7, comprising pilots and special-mission aviators, is scheduled for Wednesday at Duke Field near Crestview.

The new detachment will work in conjunction with Air Force Materiel Command’s Duke Field-based 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s only dedicated helicopter test unit.

Taking command of Detachment 7 is Lt. Col. Mary Clark, who has had a leading role in the work to replace the aging fleet of the Air Force’s 63 UH-1N “Huey” helicopters, venerable workhorses of the Vietnam era, with the new Boeing MH-139A, a militarized version of Leonardo Helicopters’ commercial AW-139 helicopter.

Clark has more than 2,200 flight hours, including 200 combat flight hours.

In a news release, Clark said taking command of Detachment 7 is “a unique and exciting opportunity to lead some of the Air Force’s best Airmen in the acquisition and testing of the MH-139A. The entire unit looks forward to delivering a safe, robust and mission-enhancing helicopter to our peers and the aviators that follow us.”

The day after Clark assumes command of Detachment 7, the first of four new MH-139A helicopters will arrive at Duke Field, where an unveiling ceremony will be held, along with a naming ceremony christening the MH-139A with its official Air Force nickname. A second helicopter is set to arrive in January, with the final two helicopters coming to Duke Field in February.

The MH-139A will be unique to the Air Force among America’s military services. It also will be the first aircraft ever acquired by the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, which “provides combat-ready forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations,” according to the command’s website.

The MH-139A’s primary mission will be providing security and support for the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile sites in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska, meaning largely that they will be used to transport base personnel to missile silos.

Other missions slated for the MH-139A include civil search and rescue, airlift support, survival school and test support, according to Air Force news releases.

The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 84 of the new helicopters, which offer increased speed, payload and range capabilities in comparison with the aging UH-1N fleet. The cost for the full order of the new helicopters will be $2.38 billion, according to Air Force news releases.

Detachment 7 eventually will move to Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base for additional testing and evaluation work on the new helicopter, according to an Air Force news release.

Fully operational MH-139As are scheduled to begin coming into the Air Force inventory sometime in the 2021 fiscal year, which begins in October of 2020.

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