The US Air Force’s (USAF) first HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter Weapons System and Operational Flight Trainers are in final assembly.

Built by Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky, the HH-60W aircraft is expected to enter into service with the USAF in 2020 and will replace the service’s ageing H-60G Pave Hawk aircraft fleet.

The aircraft training systems are expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year at subcontractor FlightSafety International’s manufacturing facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, US.

Once completed, the Weapons System Trainer will be based at the USAF’s Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico, while the Operational Flight Trainer will be housed at the Moody AFB in Georgia.

“The combat rescue mission is uniquely challenging in that it requires much of the mission planning to occur while in flight rather than prior to flight.”

The flight trainers will have the capability to link with other simulators on the Combat Air Forces Distributed Mission Operations (CAF DMO) network.

The flight simulators will train the crew members of the combat rescue helicopter, enabling pilots and special mission aviators to train together in the same device, and in more complex and realistic scenarios.

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Sikorsky Air Force Programs director Tim Healy said: “The combat rescue mission is uniquely challenging in that it requires much of the mission planning to occur while in flight rather than prior to flight.

“This is due to the time-critical nature of the mission and the reality that the threat, location and condition of isolated personnel to be rescued are not fully known prior to take-off. This requires that the aircrew become highly skilled at using the enormous networking and information capabilities that reside within the HH-60W, and that takes training and practice.

Under the current engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the programme, Sikorsky will deliver nine HH-60W helicopters, in addition to six aircrew and maintenance training devices, and instructional courseware designed for the aircraft.