USAF’s HH-60W Jolly Green II Deploys to Africa

Derived from the UH-60 Black Hawk, the search and rescue chopper marks its first deployment.

A HH-60W combat rescue helicopter follows behind its wingman in support of a casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) exercise at an undisclosed Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa area of responsibility, Dec 8, 2022. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

The U.S. Air Force's HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters have been operating in Africa on their first deployment, according to reports.

The Air Force last October announced that the revamped combat search and rescue aircraft based on the venerable Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk was ready for action. In November the service shared certain details regarding preparations its members were making for the Jolly Greens’ first deployment but did not reveal its location. 

Air Force officials have not responded to requests for information about the reported deployment.

The Department of Defense, however, recently posted photos of the HH-60W participating in a casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) exercise at an undisclosed Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa location in Djibouti.

"This is the HH-60W’s first deployment to eastern Africa and used in support of exercises such as CASEVACs," DOD said. "These exercises are an important part of U.S AFRICOM mission in coordinating efforts between coalition and joint forces in eastern Africa, and enhancing the Combatant Command’s Warfighter Recovery Network."

Manufacturer Sikorsky made a number of upgrades to increase the HH-60W’s capabilities compared with its predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk. Better range, avionics and survivability were among the improvements.

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

While helicopters had been used for search and rescue missions since World War II, the HH-3E, which was a modified version of the CH-3 transport, was the first developed specifically for combat search and rescue missions. It had protective equipment HH-3E also pioneered air-to-air refueling for helicopters.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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