The Air Force wrapped up the latest round of tests on its new combat rescue helicopter Tuesday, moving the Sikorsky-built HH-60W Jolly Green II a step closer to full-time operations.
The last step of developmental testing checked whether the helicopter’s weapons worked in flight and were properly configured, the Air Force said in a release Thursday. HH-60Ws wield a 7.62 mm Gatling gun that fires 3,000 rounds per minute, a .50 caliber machine gun that can fire 1,100 rounds per minute, and a .50 caliber machine gun that can reach 800 rounds per minute.
Search-and-rescue forces will fly the Jolly Green II, named after the green Vietnam War-era rescue helicopters, into remote and dangerous areas to find downed airmen who could be in peril or need medical evacuation. It replaces the HH-60G Pave Hawk, an earlier version of the Army’s Black Hawk that the Air Force has flown since the 1980s.
Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, welcomed the Air Force’s first two new combat rescue helicopters in November.
The Air Force’s HH-60G Pave Hawks — the Defense Department’s premier combat rescue helicopter — have aged beyond their expected service life and are in dire need of replacement.
The “Whiskey” models promise to fly farther than their predecessors and are better able to survive threats from enemy weapons or dangerous environmental conditions. The Air Force is on track to buy 113 of the airframes for nearly $7.6 billion.
Other parts of the test program looked at the performance of the helicopter itself, its communications systems, in-air refueling, and live fire of the aircraft’s guns. It’s been baked in temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit and frozen to -60 degrees Fahrenheit to see how the helo would fare.
Tests of the airframe will continue at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in 2022, while Sikorsky continues to deliver the choppers to rescue units.