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Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant

Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant

Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter


The Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant distinguished itself in rescue operations of downed American airmen throughout the Vietnam War.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1967
MANUFACTURER(S): Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation - USA
OPERATORS: United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 73.00 feet (22.25 meters)
WIDTH: 62.34 feet (19 meters)
HEIGHT: 18.11 feet (5.52 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 12,346 pounds (5,600 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 22,051 pounds (10,002 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines of 1,500 horsepower each driving 5-blade main rotor and 5-bladed tail rotor.
SPEED (MAX): 153 miles-per-hour (247 kilometers-per-hour; 133 knots)
RANGE: 779 miles (1,253 kilometers; 677 nautical miles)
CEILING: 21,001 feet (6,401 meters; 3.98 miles)

2 x 7.62mm M60 General Purpose Machine Guns
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

Series Model Variants
• HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" - S-61R / CH-3C "stretched" fuselage variant developed specially for the United States Air Force; rear-loading freight ramp.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 2/1/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" was a specialized development of the original Sikorsky CH-3 transport helicopter. The HH-3E was specifically designed for Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) which required long operational ranges, loitering times and hovering qualities and appeared during the American involvement in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Due to its "combat" SAR classification, the HH-3E was purposely developed with extra protection for the crew and systems when operating in a theater of war. The HH-3E Jolly Green Giant is no longer in service with US military forces.

The Sikorsky CH-3E "Sea King" production model was selected for conversion to the CSAR role across fifty total airframes (the CH-3E was an offshoot of the Sikorsky S-61R product model). These helicopters were given a large rear powered ramp for ease of access to the cargo hold, self-sealing fuel tanks to counter the threat of small arms fire and armoring to increase crew survivability. Additionally, the CH-3E's were given armament for self-defense and a powered hoist for bringing up downed airmen. The hull was sealed to promote water-landings. In-flight refueling was made possible by way of a probe seated to the lower right of the fuselage. Overall, the airframe retained much of the general look and exact layout of the CH-3E when it in its revised HH-3E form.

Initial HH-3E units were deployed to Southeast Asia beginning in 1967 with the United States Air Force. From there, no part of the theater was out of reach from the high endurance mounts and HH-3E crews went to work, sometimes under lethal operating conditions, in rescuing their fallen comrades. Power was served through a pairing of General Electric T58-GE-5 series turboshaft engines rated at 1,500 horsepower each, powering a five-bladed main rotor and five-bladed tail rotor. The design was characterized by its large, deep fuselage to which the engines were mounted along the roof and the raised tail unit aft and above the cargo ramp area. Sponsons along the sides of the hull allowed for waterborne landings. The cockpit sat the two pilots and window panes dotted the sides of the fuselage. The wheeled undercarriage was retractable. A typical crew of four included the pilots, a flight mechanic and dedicated machine gunner. The HH-3E was generally armed with 2 x 7.62mm M60 General Purpose Machine Guns for suppression of enemy elements. The internal hold could house up to 25 passengers or 15 medical litters along with 2 medical specialists.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (Cont'd)

Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (Cont'd)

Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter

HH-3E systems were based in Udorn Air Base in Thailand and out of Da Nang Air Base of South Vietnam. The helicopter was a participant in the Son Tay prison camp operation of 1970. The operation involved some 50 US commandos in a raid attempting to rescue as many as 80 prisoners of war from the North Vietnam establishment. At least 29 US Air Force aircraft directly took part in the raid including HH-3Es. Much to the dismay of the rescuers, the prison was devoid of prisoners during the operation, they having been moved to another facility. The mission technically became something of a "failed success" for no POWs were released from captivity but worldwide attention was brought to North Vietnam treatment of their prisoners.

The Vietnam War certainly illustrated the bravery and sacrifice of Jolly Green Giant crews for they were awarded over 190 Silver Stars, 24 Air Force Crosses and even one Medal of Honor. HH-3E crews were exposed to very harrowing conditions during a typical work day - bullet riddled airframes, loss of windscreens and fractured rotor assemblies. It was not uncommon for a single aircraft to have rescued dozens of downed airmen across the theater of war. One of the more famous of the type became "Jolly Green 22" which is retained on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio - the vehicle having served 32 months in Vietnam skies.

Service for the HH-3E did not end with the conclusion of the Vietnam War for its special capabilities were put to good use in Operation Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Again, the system served down airmen well and managed to further strengthen the history of this fine aircraft. Its involvement in the Gulf War would signal the end of the HH-3E line for the US Air Force retired its fleet by the end of 1995, bringing an end to a storied era.

The United States Coast Guard fielded a similar Sikorsky recovery model recognized as the HH-3F "Pelican". This, too, has been retired from active service.

Italy and Tunisia are the two remaining military operators of the S-61R model.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (153mph).

Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (50)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
In the Cockpit...
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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