Sikorsky has begun final assembly of the first HH-60W combat rescue helicopter to upgrade the US Air Force (USAF) rescue mission capabilities.
With the completion of the final assembly, the aircraft is expected to conduct its first flight at the end of this year, which would be two months ahead of schedule.
During the process, the HH-60W helicopter will be installed and upgraded with the new tactical mission kit (TMK) delivered by Lockheed Martin from its facility in Owego, New York.
The scope of the project will also include the installation of sensors, radar and multiple defence systems, which will provide pilots with more information to make quick decisions to complete the mission.
In addition, the aircraft will feature a new fuel system with dual internal fuel tanks totalling 660gal, which will provide the USAF crew with enhanced range and additional capability to conduct rescue operations in the battlespace.
Sikorsky Air Force Programmes director Tim Healy said: “The HH-60W will be the most thoroughly networked and connected vertical lift platform ever produced, bringing unrivalled capability in high-threat environments.
“The modern battlespace is an unforgiving place, no one survives on their own, and the HH-60W allows the entire suite of air and space power to be linked and employed in support of combat rescue operations, even in deep and denied territory.”
Sikorsky’s HH-60W is the first engineering manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft to be assembled at the company’s headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut.
The company successfully carried out the training systems design review of the aircraft in September last year.
According to the USAF programme of record, 112 helicopters are required to be procured to replace the ageing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.