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Air Force selects Alabama’s Maxwell AFB to house new helicopter unit vital to national security

The United States Air Force on Friday announced Montgomery’s Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base has been selected as the preferred location to host the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter Formal Training Unit (FTU).

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense, applauded the Air Force’s decision.

The new MH-139 Grey Wolf will serve as a replacement and upgrade to the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey, reportedly advancing the helicopter in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability.

The MH-139A FTU will supplant the mission of the Air Force Reserve’s 908th Airlift Wing’s aging C-130Hs currently at Maxwell in providing security and support for our nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields.

“This long-awaited news regarding the MH-139 Grey Wolf is excellent for Maxwell, the Montgomery area, and the entire state,” Shelby said in a statement.

“It comes as no surprise that the 908th Airlift Wing has again been chosen to receive advanced, state-of-the-art aircraft for our Air Force. I am pleased that Maxwell will continue this tradition with this next generation aircraft. The decision highlights and reinforces our state’s success in supporting a robust national defense. Not only does this support jobs for reservists and experts in the area, but it also enables economic development and future opportunities for Maxwell,” Alabama’s senior senator added.

Per an Air Force release, additional MH-139 capabilities include civil search and rescue, airlift support, National Capital Region missions, survival school, and test support.

“As the lead command for the Air Force’s MH-139 helicopter fleet, bringing the MH-139 FTU online is an important step to ensure the nation’s Nuclear Triad remains safe, secure, effective and ready,” commented Gen. Tim Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

“The MH-139 will be an absolute game changer providing increased intercontinental ballistic missile security in support of USSTRATCOM nuclear deterrence operations,” he continued. “The Grey Wolf will bring significantly improved capabilities, ready to rapidly deliver more defenders to missile fields while also providing increased convoy security.”

The first MH-139 aircraft is expected to arrive in 2023. Those airmen currently supporting the C-130 mission in Montgomery will transition to support the MH-139. The 908th Airlift Wing consists of over 1,198 individuals and boasts an annual economic impact of more than $60 million annually. Maxwell’s close proximity to the Undergraduate Helicopter Pilot Training at Fort Rucker allows for increased efficiency for the Air Force.

The Air Force will now conduct an environmental impact analysis before finalizing Friday’s decision in the winter of 2021.

“The impact this decision will have on our community is significant,” emphasized Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed. “Montgomery continues to prove that it is not only serious about its support for our military but that we are serious about our ability to look ahead, to anticipate opportunities, and to successfully compete for the projects, missions, and initiatives that will continue to carry our community and our nation forward well into the future.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn