During a speech at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, the U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on Feb. 27 announced that the service’s new Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter would be known as the HH-60W Jolly Green II. The nick name harkens back to the Sikorsky HH-3E used to rescue downed pilots during the Vietnam War, nicknamed the “Jolly Green Giant” due to its distinctive green paint scheme. In 1965 alone, the HH-3E crews rescued 122 troops from the jungles of Vietnam. The new helicopter honors the history of combat search and rescue, with Barrett highlighting missions from Vietnam—when crews with limited equipment made dramatic rescues due to their “bravery and tenacity”—to a heroic flight of Jolly 4-1 and Jolly 4-2 to rescue U.S. special operations troops under fire in Somalia.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, will build 12 additional HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH) following a second Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract award by the U.S. Air Force, known as Lot 2, and valued at over $500 million. The award follows a string of significant program milestones in 2019, including first flight, a Milestone C decision by the Air Force, and award of the first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract for 10 aircraft. The HH-60W is an all-new helicopter based on the proven UH-60M Black Hawk and customized for the U.S. Air Force’s rescue mission. A total of nine aircraft will be built at Sikorsky’s Stratford, Connecticut, facility during the Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the program ― four EMD aircraft and five System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA).
Since achieving the Milestone C decision from the Air Force in September 2019, which moved the CRH program into low rate initial production, the program continues to progress, reaching key milestones and executing an aggressive flight test schedule. Currently seven CRH aircraft are in flight, two of which are with the Air Force at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, with all aircraft engaging in expanded flight tests to support the path forward to Required Assets Available (RAA). Low rate initial production of CRH Lot 1 aircraft major assembly is underway, with Lot 2 assembly to follow. The program remains on track to meet contract delivery of RAA in 2020.
The HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter is significantly more capable and reliable than its predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk. The aircraft hosts a new fuel system that nearly doubles the capacity of the main fuel tank on a UH-60M Black Hawk, giving the Air Force crew extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battle space. The HH-60W specification drives more capable defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, weapons, cyber-security, environmental, expanded adverse weather sensor capabilities, and more comprehensive net-centric requirements than currently held by the HH-60G. The U.S. Air Force program of record calls for 113 helicopters to replace the Pave Hawks, which perform critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services.