Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force's UH-1N Huey.
Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica's commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.
Roycroft and Arrington both received their "type certification," a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.
The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.
"Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training," Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.
A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.
"This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed," said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. "Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability."
The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service's current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.
Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.
"Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation's assets," Roycroft said.
In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately $2.38 billion.
A UH-1N Huey helicopter.
The award contract stipulates approximately $375 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.
The service said receiving the helicopter will mark "the first time in recent history" that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft "not previously used in another branch of the military," according to the release.
The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.
The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force's inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.
The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
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