Malmstrom AFB pilots, flight engineers attend first Grey Wolf Type 1 training

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Mary Bowers
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

A select group of Malmstrom Air Force Base Airmen traveled to Philadelphia last month for the first iteration of MH-139A Grey Wolf Type 1 training held at Leonardo Helicopters Training Academy. During the 32-day curriculum, students were immersed in the classroom, a cockpit procedural trainer and a state-of-the-art helicopter flight simulator.

“I was super excited,” said Capt. Jacques Soto, 40th Helicopter Squadron pilot. “This is the third aircraft I’ve learned from the Air Force, and I’m really excited about this one because I remember seeing it in pilot training and thinking, ‘I want to get my hands on that,’ and it’s come to fruition.”

The selection process for the Type 1 crew was based on a variety of factors but crew position, experience levels, and time on station were some of the major considerations. This selection criteria ensures that the high-performing 40th HS pilots and flight engineers offer a diverse sampling of the force for initial operational test and evaluation and can further support the MH-139A Grey Wolf transition for years to come.

Though the Type 1 crew began their 32-day training in the classroom together, the pilots and flight engineers separated at the 10-day mark to focus on their specific job training. Pilots focused on ground academics and procedural trainers before applying their skills in a full-motion aircraft simulator; flight engineers worked on ground training before moving to a full-motion video trainer and simulator, then ended with hoist and hook training to expand upon their current insertion and extraction procedures.

“This training is important, at least to me, because it’s the first of its kind in Global Strike,” explained Tech. Sgt. William Sines, 40th HS flight engineer. “We get to be the forefront of this ship; we get to create the techniques and producers for it and adapt what we know currently to develop the future.”

The training itself, led by Boeing, lays the groundwork for the Type 1 crew members to work with the newly established 550th Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base to create a conversion course syllabus for UH-1N Huey aircrew. Eventually, that training will be provided to other Air Force Global Strike Command bases.

The 550th HS’s goals for the next 18 months include completing their qualification training at Malmstrom AFB, which allows them to move forward with their operational tests and evaluations. Once complete, they will stand up conversion training for the 40th HS air crews and other AFGSC MH-139A units.

“For a lot of us Huey air crew that have been around for a while, this is very important because it’s really the first step to getting this [new] aircraft towards initial operational capability,” said Lt Col Williams, 550th HS commander. “To send the first crews through [Type 1] training means that we are moving on the right track.”

The Type 1 training, and the rollout of the MH-139A, push the Air Force forward to increase operational capability. Not only is the transition from UH-1N Huey to Grey Wolf significant for the advances in speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability, but it also provides an opportunity for the 550th to update procedures and tactics for the sake of offering nuclear security in the missile field for decades to come.

“The MH-139 is a giant leap in capability, performance, and speed over the UH-1N Huey, so we’re going to be able to perform our missions in the missile field more efficiently,” Williams said.

The UH-1N Huey has been used for the last 53 years to support various missions including airlift of emergency security forces, search and rescue, security and surveillance of off-base nuclear weapons convoys and distinguished visitor airlift. Its retirement allows for the transition to a new aircraft that offers vastly improved capabilities combined with proven reliability.

In short, the cutting-edge features and design advancements of the Grey Wolf provide substantial improvements over its predecessor.

The Grey Wolf provides the ability to cruise 50% faster than the Huey, while having a 30% larger cabin and the capability to lift 5,000 pounds more.

The Grey Wolf is slated to replace Malmstrom AFB’s aging Huey fleet by the end of 2024.