Whiskey Delivery: New HH-60W rescue helicopters received by U.S. Air Force

AvatarBy Dan Parsons | November 6, 2020

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 33 seconds.

The first two of the U.S. military’s new HH-60W combat rescue helicopters landed at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia on Nov. 5, arriving straight from Sikorsky’s training academy in Florida. 

Both aircraft were received by the 23rd Wing, 347th Rescue Group, according to an Air Force Statement. They are the first pair of helicopters, nicknamed the “Whiskey” and officially dubbed the “Jolly Green II”, of a planned fleet of 113 aircraft that will replace the aging HH-60G Pave Hawk as the service’s primary combat search-and-rescue helicopter. 

An HH-60W Jolly Green II taxis Nov. 5, 2020, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andrea Jenkins)

Aircrew from the 41st Rescue Squadron out of Moody AFB and the 413th Flight Test Squadron and 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron, both based at Duke Field, Florida, flew the aircraft from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Training Academy.

“The HH-60W comes equipped with a wide range of capabilities that will ensure its crews continue carrying out their critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services and allies in contested and diverse environments,” the Air Force said. “The delivery of the new model is significant to the personnel recovery mission as it begins the transition from the predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk model, which has been flown for more than 26 years. The Air Force will continue to utilize the HH-60G model until the transition is complete.”

In a tribute to its Vietnam War-era predecessor, the new helicopter was dubbed the Jolly Green II after the legendary HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” combat search-and-rescue helicopter famous for plucking downed pilots from lush Vietnam War jungles.

The HH-60W boasts a number of capability and reliability improvements over the legacy HH-60G. The Jolly Green II sports an all-glass integrated digital avionics systems and a 600-gallon internal fuel tank, double what the G-model carried internally. The Combat Rescue Helicopter has a range of 450 nautical miles with a maximum interior gross weight of 22,500 pounds.

The primary mission of the HH-60W helicopter will be conducting day or night operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war. The platform will also be tasked to perform military operations other than war, including civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space-flight support, and rescue command and control.

Two HH-60W Jolly Green IIs prepare to land Nov. 5, 2020, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andrea Jenkins)

Sikorsky was given the go-ahead to build the HH-60W in September 2019, following a tumultuous, overlong developmental effort caused by deficiencies pointed out in a blistering 2018 government program evaluation. 

Greg Hames, now director of Sikorsky’s Air Force programs, was brought in from the CH-53K program to get the HH-60W back on track. He was able to shave at least five months off the developmental schedule and dramatically increase flight testing to meet the Air Force’s production decision deadline.

“This milestone has been long anticipated by our team since the Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract was awarded in 2014, and we are pleased to provide our customer with the advanced capabilities it needs to execute its critical combat search and rescue missions,” Hames said in a statement. 

“I attribute this milestone to the Sikorsky Combat Rescue Helicopter team, our U.S. Air Force colleagues, and all those who supported this effort to deliver this aircraft to our men and women in uniform,” Hames added. “Getting these initial aircraft delivered in the most challenging and demanding of times makes this accomplishment that much more significant and is a testament to the effective partnership between Lockheed Martin and the Air Force.”

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  1. And this is all because of our wonderful America First President Trump who has been behind the effort to rebuild our Military. I just wonder what happens to our military personnel now.

    1. Actually the HH-60W project was launched under the previous administration, in 2012, as the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) program. Sikorsky was awarded the contract in 2014, and completed the PDR in May 2016.

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