For decades during the Cold War period (1947-1991) the United States Air Force (USAF) service operated converted Sikorsky CH-3E "Sea King" helicopters in the dedicated Combat Rescue Role under the designation of HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant". These helicopters more than proved their worth in a storied career running from 1967 until 1995, seeing action in global conflicts such as the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the Persian Gulf War (1991). From this work spawned the massive HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giant", built from the Sikorsky MH-53 series, and these operated with the USAF until September 2008.
While "Jolly Green Giants" by name have not been a part of the USAF inventory since, the role is currently taken on by the HH-60G "Pave Hawk", based in the UH-60A "Credible Hawk", and all based from the original UH-60 "Black Hawk" military helicopter transport series. The HH-60G Pave Hawk is set to be replaced by a newer development designated as the Sikorsky HH-60W "Jolly Green II". The mark is built upon the existing (and proven) framework of t the UH-60M production model.
The Jolly Green II was named in a ceremony in February 2020, honoring the Jolly Green crews of previous generations who established the excellence and capability expected of the USAF combat rescue crews today.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation falls under the parent brand of Lockheed Martin.
Jolly Green II will feature a slew of modern, advanced systems to better aid rescuers in contested areas in day / night environments and varying weather situations. The platform has inherently long range (with double the internal fuel stores of the original Black Hawk) for a rotary-wing platform and built-in countermeasures to help stay alive - all designed to meet exacting United States Air Force specifications for their new helicopter. Weapons support is broader than previous iterations through what is billed as a "flexible" weapon system.
Externally, the HH-60W "Whiskey" mimics much of the form-and-function of the UH-60M complete with a two-person flight crew in side-by-side seating at the nose. Vision out-of-the-cockpit is excellent with large-view panes being used. Entry is by hinged, automobile-style doors while access to the cabin is through the typical Black Hawk-style sliding doors. The nose of the helicopter seats an aerial refueling probe, allowing the helicopter access to even longer operational ranges than what is possible on internal fuel stores. A complex sensor fit is installed at the "chin" and given unfetter views over the terrain ahead. Over the sides of the vehicle are pintle mounts supporting various USAF vehicle weapons including the air-cooled 12.7mm M2HB Browning Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) for suppression of enemy elements. A powered winch is noted over the starboard side of the airframe, used to recover downed airmen. The twin turboshaft engine arrangement is seated over the passenger cabin and used to drive a four-bladed composite main rotor blade and a four-bladed tail rotor unit offset to starboard. Ground-running is via a tail-dragger undercarriage arrangement with main legs set under center mass and a tailwheel at the rear.
Internally, the cabin can be arranged to satisfy certain mission requirements. This includes stacking medical litters for the rescue of multiple airmen, a "clean configuration" offering more internal space, and a mix of the two to cover a broader mission set (including troop transportation). Beyond its expected military role, the HH-60W could relatively easily double as a civilian-market humanitarian / Search and Rescue (SAR) solution, either over land or in the maritime environment.
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April 2020 - The HH-60W has completed extreme conditions testing.
August 2020 - With developmental testing underway, an HH-60W has successfully completed its first-ever aerial refueling exercise.
September 2020 - The HH-60W helicopter has begun live-fire testing as it proceeds towards operational-level service.
November 2020 - The United States Air Force has received its first two HH-60W airframes.
March 2022 - The HH-60W is set to begin its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) phase.
October 2022 - The HH-60W has reached operational status and is set to replace an aging stock of HH-60G Pave Hawks in same role.
December 2022 - The HH-60W has recorded its first combat casualty evacuation (Horn of Africa region).
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation - USA Manufacturer(s)
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