Air Force Says HH-60W Jolly Green II Helicopters Are Ready For Duty

The Sikorsky aircraft’s name honors the pioneering HH-3E rescue model from the Vietnam era.

The U.S. Air Force’s HH-60W Jolly Green II is officially ready for action, according to Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, who made the announcement at Joint base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

The Air Force uses more formal language, saying the combat rescue helicopter has “reached initial operational capability,” but the aircraft’s new name associates it with earlier Jolly Greens and their stalwart crews who rescued many downed pilots under fire during the war in Vietnam.

The Air Force says it now has enough HH-60Ws, logistics requirements, and trained crew members “to support a 30-day deployment to any independent location with a package of four aircraft.”

“It’s an exciting day for Combat Rescue as we bring a new platform and its upgraded capabilities into operation,” said Maj. Gen. David Lyons, director of operations at Air Combat Command, noting that “current and future combat environments require us to maneuver further and faster than ever before.”

The 23rd Wing, based at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, is among the first units to receive the HH-60W. They marked the occasion with a ceremony. 

“The airmen of the 23rd Wing have done a tremendous job working with partners to get this aircraft combat ready on time,” said Col. Russ Cook, the unit’s commander. “Bottom line, the future of Air Force Rescue is secure, and our team is ready to recover anybody, anytime, anywhere, against any adversary.”

Manufacturer Sikorsky made several improvements to the HH-60W over its predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk, including longer range, improved survivability, updated avionics and a new fuel system. Both models are derivatives of the long-running UH-60 Blackhawk.

In early 2020, then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett revealed the new rescue chopper’s name during an Air Force Association event in Orlando, Florida. The Jolly Green II moniker links it with the legendary Sikorsky HH-3E, nicknamed the “Jolly Green Giant” during the war in Vietnam.

While helicopters had been used for search and rescue missions as far back as World War II, the HH-3E—modified from the CH-3 transport—was the first developed specifically for combat search and rescue or CSAR missions. Special equipment and features included protective armor, machine guns and air-to-air refueling capabilities—a first for helicopters.

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