How America Keeps Its Old HH-60 Rescue Helicopters Flying

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November 10, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: HH-60 Pave HawkRescue HelicopterU.S. Air ForceHH-60HH-60W

How America Keeps Its Old HH-60 Rescue Helicopters Flying

The Pave Hawks have received much-needed repairs and will eventually replaced by a newer model.

When soldiers, airmen and sailors are injured by enemy fire, ambushed or pinned down by dangerous attacks, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters were usually tasked with the risky combat mission of flying in behind enemy lines to save those in danger.

However, the Pave Hawk fleet was massively taxed by recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As a result of the wars, the fleet was decimated by loss, damage and the wear and tear of consistent high-risk combat missions. This pushed the Air Force to spend many years on a crucial effort to restore the fleet to its needed operational strength by both upgrading the damaged fleet of Pave Hawks and now by building the new HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters. 

The first two HH-60Ws have arrived at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

“The Jolly Green II features advanced and improved defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, hover performance, electrical capacity, avionics, cooling, weapons, cyber-security, environmental and net-centric requirements,” An Air Force report on the arrival states. 

The new helicopters will fly alongside and then ultimately replace HH-60G Pave Hawks, combat rescue helicopters with a long and distinguished history performing an extremely high-risk, lethal mission, often flying into incoming enemy fire to recover and rescue injured servicemembers.

Pave Hawks combat missions began in Operation Just Cause in Panama in the late 1980s. During Operation Desert Storm they provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition forces in western Iraq, coastal Kuwait, the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Air Force statements said. They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for the U.S. Navy SEAL teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion. 

During Operation Allied Force, Pave Hawks provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for North Atlantic Treaty Organization air forces, and successfully recovered two Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines. 

The Sikorsky-built Pave Hawk helicopter operates two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines, weighs 22,000 pounds and reaches speeds up to 184 miles per hour. It has an operating range of 504-miles.

Previous Air Force Pave Hawk restoration and upgrades progressed along a two-fold trajectory involving the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawks and existing HH-60Gs into new models called Operational Loss Replacement, or OLR, helicopters.

The Army Black Hawks were given new communications technology, navigational systems, radar warning receivers and hoist refueling probes allowing the aircraft to refuel mid-mission. In addition, they have an infrared jammer and flare countermeasure dispensing system. The converted helicopters are also given longer range fuel tanks and increased armor for combat rescue missions, Army HH-60 weapons developers explained. 

The creation of OLR models from HH-60G helicopters included the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system. Modern or upgraded variants of all of this technology is now being built into the HH-60W. 

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters