The HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) is manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft, a subsidiary of defence technology company Lockheed Martin, for the US Air Force’s (USAF) CRH programme. It is an advanced variant of the combat-proven UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. The new helicopter will replace the HH-60G Pave Hawk medium-lift, combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) vehicle that entered service with the USAF in 1982.
The HH-60W can be deployed in casualty evacuation, medical evacuation, non-combatant evacuation missions, civil search-and-rescue, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and insertion or extraction of combat forces.
CRH programme details
The USAF announced the replacement of its ageing HH-60G helicopters with new CRH in 2010. A request for proposal was issued for the CRH programme in October 2012. Sikorsky teamed up with major subsystems supplier Lockheed Martin to offer a UH-60M derivative as the USAF’s new combat rescue helicopter.
In June 2014, the USAF awarded a $1.2bn engineering, manufacturing, and development contract to the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin team to provide the next-generation combat rescue helicopter fleet. The contract covers development and integration of the rescue mission systems, four helicopters, as well as seven aircrew and maintenance training systems.
The contract also includes options for the production of 113 HH-60W helicopters. The Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin team will deliver the helicopters with most advanced capabilities to support all services in combat.
The new combat rescue helicopter was officially named as the HH-60W by the USAF in November 2014. The preliminary design review of the helicopter was completed in May 2016,
whereas the vehicle critical design review (CDR) was concluded in September 2017. The CDR of the training systems was initially completed in October 2017.
The combat rescue helicopter performed its first flight in May 2019. The USAF announced the Milestone C decision in September 2019, moving the programme into low rate initial production (LRIP) to build ten CRH helicopters.
The second LRIP contract worth $500m for the production of 12 additional HH-60W rotorcraft was awarded in February 2020.
The USAF named the HH-60W aircraft ‘Jolly Green II’ at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando in February 2020. The CRH’s name honours the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who are regarded as the pioneers of aerial combat search and rescue. The Jolly Green II underwent its first aerial refuelling exercise with a HC-130J tanker aircraft over the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in August 2020.
The USAF received the first two HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopter at the Moody Air Force Base in November 2020.
The rotorcraft completed the developmental testing phase in April 2021. The final test of the phase involved the evaluation of the helicopter’s weapon systems.
HH-60W helicopter design and features
The design of the helicopter is based on the next-generation UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. The rotorcraft integrates a crashworthy and damage-tolerant airframe. It retains composite, wide-chord, main rotor blades, and corrosion-resistant structures of its predecessor.
The helicopter offers an increased internal fuel capability compared to the HH-60G helicopter. It delivers longer range and offers a larger internal cabin space.
It can accommodate two pilots, two gunners, two paramedics and two litters for medical patients or injured service members. Either side of the fuselage can be mounted with .50 calibre and 7.62mm machine guns.
The helicopter is equipped with Lockheed Martin’s mission planning system, defensive aids, data links, mission computers and adverse weather sensors.
The integrated defensive suite features an APR-52 digital radar warning receiver, AAR-57 missile and hostile fire warning system, and AVR-2B laser warning system to improve the survivability of the helicopter. The HH-60W is also equipped with six integrated chaff and flare dispensers, and improved armour for the floors and walls of the cabin and cockpit.
Cockpit and avionics of combat rescue helicopter The advanced glass cockpit can accommodate two pilots side-by-side. It is equipped with Rockwell Collins’ state-of-the art avionics and mission equipment, including cockpit flight and
mission display system, navigation radios, and the advanced ARC-210 V/UHF communication system.
The ARC-210 offers secure voice communications and civil interoperability. The system supports the integration of future advanced ad hoc networks and next-generation mobile user objective system satellite communication for uninterrupted voice and data.
The multi-function displays (MFDs) on board the cockpit comply with the latest night-vision imaging system standards. The MFDs support wide viewing angles for superior cross-cockpit viewing. The integrated cockpit flight and mission display system delivers superior situational awareness while reducing pilot workload during CSAR missions.
HH-60W engine details
The powerplant of HH-60W integrates two General Electric T700-GE-701D turbo-shaft engines, each developing a maximum continuous power of 1,716shp (1,279kW) and offering enhanced performance in adverse weather conditions.