Ever wonder what would happen to the U.S. leadership and the nuclear missile arsenal if the nation was under attack? New helicopters will take on these two highly dangerous – and incredibly important – missions.
If war breaks out and American home soil is under threat, then the country will be relying on cutting-edge military flying machines that have just been revealed by the U.S. Air Force.
The Air Force is replacing its UH-1N “Huey” helicopter fleet. The iconic Huey is often associated with military missions like search and rescue during its nearly five decades of military service.
The Hueys are used to safeguard America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases and to take key government leadership to safety, ensuring continuation of governance.
And the Hueys, while widely loved, have been in service for nearly-half of a century.
The stakes for these two missions are gigantic. Should the need arise, then these missions must never fail.
The U.S. Air Force has just revealed the Boeing-Leonardo partnership’s MH-139 as the Huey’s replacement MH-139 is a militarized version of the commercially-available Leonardo Helicopters AW139.
The Boeing-Leonardo team design faced competition from Sierra Nevada Corp’s “Sierra Force” and Lockheed Martin Sikorsky’s Black Hawk approach.
USAF plans to buy 84 of these new helicopters, with the first one arriving in 2021.
The Huey was made by Bell Helicopter and the Air Force has 59 that are active. Powered by two Pratt and Whitney T400-CP-400 turboshaft engines, it can reach speeds of 149 mph and has a range of more than 300 miles. The helicopter can fly at heights of 15,000 feet and carry approximately 10,500 pounds.
The MH-139 is expected to bring more speed, range, endurance, and payload – as well as some nifty new advances to enhance “survivability” as well.
Stopping political VIPs from leading a response to an attack and disrupting the continuity of governance would certainly be an attractive goal for an adversary. A new helicopter with upgraded capabilities could provide more advantages for a successful escape to safety.
To defend the missile sites, a helicopter that can fly faster, farther and carry more defenders would certainly be useful.
Here’s a look at some of the upgrades on this newly - revealed aircraft, which can also be used for USAF missions like testing, training and survival school.
Machine Gun Windows
The MH-139 design includes special tactical windows that slide up and down. Rather than machine guns mounted on pintles blocking some of the space to enter through the cabin doors (as they can on some helicopters), this means the windows can be used.
Uncluttering the access point could be helpful, for example, when loading government leaders who need to quickly board while the machine gun if being fired to protect them.
The square-shaped cabin has enough space to fit up to about 15 people. There are sliding doors on both sides of the cabin that can be helpful for quickly loading and unloading VIPs.
To defend the missile sites, the ability to transport large numbers of very highly trained military teams will be useful. The 54th Helicopter Squadron, for example, could deliver the 91st Security Forces Group defenders and together provide a rapid response to threats.
Whether the helicopters are evacuating personnel or defending nuclear missile silos, adversaries would no doubt be interested in locating and tracking them.
The design takes this into consideration. For example, airflow and direction exhaust are used to help lower the helicopters’ IR signature.
Fewer Bird Strikes
The design also incorporates side facing engines which help reduce bird strikes that can cause serious problems and even down aircraft. The engines are mounted in separate engine turbine burst containment compartments.
The main rotor has five blades. To improve performance and reduce noise, it has a completely articulated fail safe system.
Both the tail and main rotor are set for high ground clearance, which helps safely evacuate personnel.
Mission – Ensure Succession of Presidential Leadership
The nation must not be without leadership and the military has incredible plans in place to ensure this never happens. The mission is to ensure the United States government continues.
How does continuity of succession work in practice?
Basically, should a serious national emergency arise, then the U.S. President (or the person who has had to succeed him or her) can authorize a temporary government to maintain control of the essential functions of the Federal Government. This is often referred to as the “shadow government.”
From a hostile nation’s submarines suddenly surfacing off the shores of Virginia and launching missiles through to a potential deadly virus outbreak … there are multiple scenarios that could potentially put the President, Vice-President and other senior political and military leadership in jeopardy.
For example, on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush activated the shadow government soon after the World Trade Center incidents.
Dubbed "The President's Wing," the 89th Airlift Wing supports Andrews AFB Air Mobility Command wing. In addition to American political and military leadership, Andrews also handles foreign royalty, prime ministers, presidents, popes, and foreign military top brass.
An emergency alert could notify 1st Helicopter Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base to head to the Capitol and evacuate the top congressional leaders to a place of safety.
The extremely talented pilots at Joint Andrews Base combined with the new MH-139 helicopters will make sure that if something were to befall the president – or others in the chain of leadership succession - then the next in line will have reached safety and is ready to instantly take over.
Mission – Protect and Defend Nations’ Nuclear Missiles
If a “Red Dawn”-type scenario where a powerful well-armed nation invades U.S. home soil occurs, then it is particularly vital that the nation’s missiles are defended and kept out of enemy hands.
But threats to the missile silos can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes beyond a full scale invasion.
These new helos will take on the mission to tackle these threats. They will defend these mighty nuclear missile arsenals that can launch strikes against adversaries across entire oceans – and they will protect such powerful, destructive weapons from falling into enemy hands.
Within Air Force Global Strike Command, the Hueys have been used by the 90th Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota.