Sikorsky will build 12 additional HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH) following a second Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract award by the U.S. Air Force, known as Lot 2, and valued at over $500 million. The award follows a string of significant program milestones in 2019, including first flight, a Milestone C decision by the Air Force, and award of the first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract for 10 aircraft. The HH-60W is an all-new helicopter based on the proven UH-60M Black Hawk and customised for the U.S. Air Force's rescue mission.
"This second contract award demonstrates the confidence the U.S. Air Force has in Sikorsky's proven ability to deliver and support the next generation combat search and rescue helicopter," said Greg Hames, Sikorsky's CRH Program Director. "Our team works daily – and in close collaboration with our customer – to ensure we build and deliver this highly capable and much-needed helicopter to the warfighter."
Since achieving the Milestone C decision from the Air Force in September 2019, which moved the CRH program into low rate initial production, the program continues to progress, reaching key milestones and executing an aggressive flight test schedule. Currently seven CRH aircraft are in flight, two of which are with the Air Force at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, with all aircraft engaging in expanded flight tests to support the path forward to Required Assets Available (RAA). Low rate initial production of CRH Lot 1 aircraft major assembly is under-way, with Lot 2 assembly to follow. The program remains on track to meet contract delivery of RAA in 2020.
The HH-60W arrived today at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, the site of the annual Air Force Association (AFA) Air Warfare Symposium, offering a first-hand look of the much-anticipated aircraft to service members who perform critical search and rescue operations. The Air Force also assigned the new helicopter its proper name, Jolly Green II, in a name reveal event hosted by Barbara M. Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force.
"We respect the long tradition of assigning a moniker that communicates the CSAR mission. Jolly Green II is a fitting tribute to its history and to airmen and women worldwide," said Dana Fiatarone, Sikorsky's Vice President, Army and Air Force Systems. "The name is greatly respected by our workforce, past and present and it's an honour to build this critical aircraft for the Air Force and bring it to the symposium today to provide our customer with the opportunity to view the Jolly Green II in person. We look forward to continued production and executing on the recent Lot 2 contract award."
The HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter is significantly more capable and reliable than its predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk. The aircraft hosts a new fuel system that nearly doubles the capacity of the main fuel tank on a UH-60M Black Hawk, giving the Air Force crew extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battle space. The HH-60W specification drives more capable defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, weapons, cyber-security, environmental, expanded adverse weather sensor capabilities, and more comprehensive net-centric requirements than currently held by the HH-60G.
HH-60G Pave Hawk
The U.S. Air Force program of record calls for 113 helicopters to replace the Pave Hawks, which perform critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all US military services. A total of nine aircraft will be built at Sikorsky's Stratford, Connecticut, facility during the Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the program ― four EMD aircraft and five System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA).
How the Jolly Green Giant II was envisioned
In 1981, the U.S. Air Force chose the UH-60A Black Hawk to replace its HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. After acquiring some UH-60s, the Air Force began upgrading each with an air refuelling probe and additional fuel tanks in the cabin. The machine guns were changed from 7.62 mm M60s to 12.7 mm XM218's. These helicopters were referred to as "Credible Hawks" and entered service in 1987.
HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter
Afterwards, the Credible Hawks and new UH-60As were upgraded and designated MH-60G Pave Hawk. These upgrades were to be done in a two-step process. However, funding allowed only 16 Credible Hawks to receive the second step equipment. These helicopters were allocated to special operations use. The remaining 82 Credible Hawks received the first step upgrade equipment and were used for combat search and rescue. In 1991, these search and rescue Pave Hawks were re-designated HH-60G.
The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. It features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes an integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation systems, satellite communications, secure voice, and “Have Quick” communications. The term PAVE stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment.
All HH-60Gs have an automatic flight control system, night vision goggles lighting and forward looking infra-red system that greatly enhances night low-level operations. Additionally, some Pave Hawks have colour weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system that gives the HH-60G an all-weather capability. Pave Hawk mission equipment includes a retractable in-flight refuelling probe, internal auxiliary fuel tanks, two crew-served or pilot-controlled 7.62 mm mini-guns or .50-calibre machine guns and a 3,600 kg capacity cargo hook. To improve air trans-portability and shipboard operations, all HH-60G’s have folding rotor blades.
Pave Hawk combat enhancements include a radar warning receiver, infra-red jammer and a flare/chaff countermeasure dispensing system. HH-60G rescue equipment includes a hoist capable of lifting a 270 kg load from a hover height of 200 feet, and a personnel locating system. A number of Pave Hawks are equipped with an over-the-horizon tactical data receiver that is capable of receiving near real-time mission update information.
In 1999, the USAF identified a need for a helicopter with improved range, speed, and cabin space. An options analysis was completed in 2002 and funding for 141 aircraft under the "personnel recovery vehicle" program began in 2004. In 2005, it was renamed CSAR-X, meaning combat search and rescue. Sikorsky entered the HH-92 Superhawk, Lockheed Martin entered the VH-71 Kestrel, and Boeing entered the HH-47 Chinook. The HH-47 won the competition in November 2006, but the award was cancelled after successful protests from both rival competitors. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was reissued in 2007, but protested again before proposals were received, leading to a second cancellation. In March 2010, the USAF announced a recapitalisation plan to return its 99-aircraft inventory to 112 air frames, incrementally replacing ageing HH-60G’s, a secondary plan to replace 13 attrition HH-60’s, seven of which were lost in combat since 2001, was also initiated. The USAF deferred secondary combat search and rescue requirements calling for a larger helicopter. A UH-60M-based version was offered as a replacement.
On 22 October 2012, the USAF issued an RFP for up to 112 Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH) to replace the HH-60G with the primary mission of personnel recovery from hostile territory; other missions include civil search and rescue, disaster relief, casualty and medical evacuation. It had to have a combat radius of 225 nmi, a payload of 680 kg, space for up to four stretchers. The AgustaWestland AW101 was one entrant. By December 2012, competitors AgustaWestland, EADS, Boeing, and Bell Helicopter had withdrawn amid claims that the RFP favoured Sikorsky and did not reward rival aircraft's capabilities. The USAF argued that the competition was not written to favour Sikorsky, and that the terms were clear as to the capabilities they wanted and could afford. Sikorsky was the only bidder remaining, with subcontractor Lockheed Martin supplying mission equipment and the electronic survivability suite. Sikorsky and the USAF extensively evaluated the proposed CRH-60, a variant of the MH-60 special operations helicopter; the CRH-60 differed from the MH-60 by its greater payload and cabin capacity, wider rotor blades, and better hover capability.
In September 2013, the initial USAF FY 2015 budget proposal would have cancelled the CRH program due to sequestration budget cuts, instead retaining the HH-60 fleet. Congress allocated over $300 million to the program in FY 2014, with $430 million to be moved from other areas through FY 2019 to finance it. On 26 June 2014, the USAF awarded Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin a $1.3 billion contract for the first four aircraft, with 112 total to be procured for a total of up to $7.9 billion. Five more are to be delivered by 2020 and the order is to be completed by 2029. On 24 November 2014, the Air Force officially designated the UH-60M-derived CRH the HH-60W. It first flew on 17 May 2019.