Air Force’s HH-60W Jolly Green II Takes First Pacific Flight

The search and rescue helicopter airframe modernization marks the service’s conversion from the HH-60G Pave Hawk.

A U.S. Air Force HH-60W Jolly Green II, assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, takes off during its first flight at Kadena Air Base, Japan, on Tuesday. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

The HH-60W Jolly Green II, the U.S. Air Force's new combat search and rescue helicopter, took its first flight over the Pacific theater Tuesday at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

“This is the first sortie this aircraft has flown since arriving at Kadena, and this is the first active-duty Air Force crew to fly this helicopter,"  said Lieutenant Colonel Brian Rhoades, 33rd 33rd Rescue Squadron combat rescue helicopter team lead. "It flew exactly like how I expected it to and met all our expectations.”

Sikorsky's HH-60W, called the "Whiskey" model, is the replacement helicopter for the HH-60G Pave Hawk and features longer range, improved survivability, updated avionics, and  new fuel system. Both models are derivatives of the long-running UH-60 Blackhawk.

A U.S. Air Force HH-60W Jolly Green II, assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

The platform was designed to be used to recover isolated personnel from hostile or denied territory in a variety of threat environments, as well as for disaster relief, medical evacuation, and humanitarian missions.

“The Whiskey came to Kadena to replace the Pave Hawk, which has been in service here since 1993 and has saved countless lives not only in Afghanistan but across the Indo-Pacific,” said Lieutenant Colonel Louis Nolting, 33rd Rescue Squadron commander. “The HH-60W gives us a modern, combat-capable helicopter with improved power avionics, defensive systems, weapon systems, survivability, and personnel recovery.”

According to Nolting, the squadron will complete its divesting of HH-60Gs by August, and more HH-60Ws will arrive before mid-2025.

Earlier in February, the 920th Rescue Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, also received its first HH-60W, marking the unit's conversion from the HH-60G.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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