The Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter, the HH-60W Jolly Green II, completed its developmental test program at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), April 13.
The final test by the Sikorsky and Air Force team was on the aircraft’s weapon systems. The goal of the test was to both demonstrate the performance of the weapons while optimizing weapon-system configurations.
«The timely completion of this test program represents an amazing accomplishment by the HH-60W Jolly Green II Integrated Test Team», said Joe Whiteaker, the 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) HH-60W Jolly Green II flight chief. «The team consistently overcame tremendous adversity through a mix of innovation and sheer determination».
The result of those labors ensured both the warfighter and the program’s decision-makers were well-informed on the HH-60W Jolly Green II’s performance.
The test efforts began May 2019 with the first HH-60W Jolly Green II flight. The aircraft arrived at Eglin AFB to the 413th FLTS November 2019, although various tests took place in other locations. The integrated test team accumulated more than 1,100 flight test hours across six aircraft testing the full spectrum of aircraft systems.
Some of the notable developmental tests included aircraft performance, communications systems, environmental tests at McKinley Climatic Lab, aerial refueling, data links, defensive systems, cabin systems, rescue hoist and live-fire of three weapon systems.
The test aircraft will be modified for operational use before being transferred to their respective Air Force rescue unit. The Jolly Green II’s developmental test mission will move to the Combat Search and Rescue Combined Test Force for follow-on testing at Nellis AFB, Nevada in 2022.
«I am incredibly proud of the many people from so many organizations who have come together to pull off a really challenging test program», said Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Dirkes, the 413 FLTS commander. «The team’s relentless focus on keeping the end in mind, aligning activity with their goals and moving forward quickly with discipline resulted in execution of a safe and highly successful test program in the face of incredible pressure».
The 23rd Wing and 347th Rescue Group leadership received the Air Force’s first two HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters at Moody Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia, November 5.
Aircrew from the 41st Rescue Squadron out of Moody AFB and the 413th Flight Test Squadron and 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron, both at Duke Field, Florida, flew the aircraft from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Training Academy.
The HH-60W Jolly Green II comes equipped with a wide range of capabilities that will ensure its crews continue carrying out their critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services and allies in contested and diverse environments. The HH-60W Jolly Green II features advanced and improved defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, hover performance, electrical capacity, avionics, cooling, weapons, cyber-security, environmental and net-centric requirements.
The primary mission of the HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopter will be conducting day or night operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war. The platform will also be tasked to perform military operations other than war, including civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space-flight support, and rescue command and control.
The delivery of the new model is significant to the personnel recovery mission as it begins the transition from the predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk model, which has been flown for more than 26 years. The Air Force will continue to utilize the HH-60G Pave Hawk model until the transition is complete.
Approximately 3,000 feet/914 meters above Eglin Air Force Base, the HH-60W Jolly Green II connected with a HC-130J tanker for the inaugural aerial refueling by the Air Force’s newest combat search and rescue helicopter, August 5.
The connection marked the start of two weeks of developmental testing of the aircraft’s aerial refueling abilities by 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) testers and their mission partners.
«This capability is essential for the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission since it greatly extends the operating range of the aircraft and thus allows the unit to extend their rescue capabilities over a larger battlespace», said Joe Whiteaker, 413th FLTS Combat Rescue Helicopter flight chief.
Throughout the tests, the aircrew and engineers will evaluate the helicopter’s ability to connect with the fuel drogue and its handling qualities during the fueling. They also monitor the functionality of the systems and gauges to ensure the aircraft receives the fuel appropriately with the proper pressures.
«Our job is to evaluate how difficult aerial refueling will be for operational pilots and to identify any unforeseen hazards due to the unique configuration of the HH-60W Jolly Green II, which may not have been present in the legacy HH-60G Pave Hawk», Whiteaker said.
Early missions will be during daylight hours. Testing will conclude with a nighttime evaluation using night vision goggles.
«This is a critical test milestone for the program as it reinforces the superior capabilities of the HH-60W Jolly Green II and its ability to support the Air Force’s CSAR mission», said Greg Hames, Sikorsky Combat Rescue Helicopter program director.
Major Andrew Fama, 413th FLTS pilot, was the Air Force pilot for the refueling mission. He evaluated the handling qualities and made the first contacts. He and the aircrew spent extra time preparing for the mission that included talking through the test sequence and rehearsing the phraseology used during the refueling. It was that extra time spent that made for a smooth mission without issues, according to Fama.
«It’s rare for a test pilot to have the opportunity to test a new aircraft replacing the one he or she flew operationally and to be the first one to do something like this», Fama said. «It was an honor to be the pilot to fly this mission and work with a truly professional test team».
The aerial refueling mission marks yet another 2020 milestone for the HH-60W Jolly Green II program. So far, the HH-60W Jolly Green II has undergone radar, weather and defensive system testing to name a few.
«The execution of this critical test is yet another demonstration of our successful partnership with the Air Force and brings us one step closer to delivering this much needed helicopter to our Airmen», Hames said.
An HH-60W Jolly Green II, the Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter, completed a month-long trial of extremes inside the McKinley Climatic Lab April 2.
The Sikorsky test aircraft endured real temperatures ranging from 120 degrees to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit/from 49 degrees to minus 51 degrees Celsius as well as 45 mph/72 km/h winds coupled with heavy rainfall. All of those scenarios were created within the lab’s 55,000-square-foot/5,110-square-meter test chamber.
The goal of these punishing tests was to prove the new aircraft’s sustainability in any operational environment.
«Operating the HH-60W in the extreme conditions was a truly unique experience as a pilot and a tester», said Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Coates, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot, who also performed most of the testing. «Checking system performance under the stress of heat, cold, heavy wind and rain will give us real-world data regarding the helicopter’s capability to perform the rescue mission worldwide in various environments, which is exactly what the operator needs to make solid employment decisions».
Once the lab technicians created extreme environments, the aircrew would enter the aircraft and perform various test procedures. The crew would execute their preflight checklists and perform tasks to see if the extreme conditions affected any of the avionics, electronics, engine and other systems.
The aircrew performing the procedures were also test subjects themselves. Their own reactions and movements were evaluated in the harsh environments. For example, the cold-weather gear worn by the aircrew is much bulkier than a standard flight suit. One of the evaluations was to ensure the pilots could easily reach all of the aircraft controls in the thicker cold-weather gear.
A significant amount of the test schedule was dedicated to preparing the chamber for extreme conditions. McKinley’s lab professionals create, break-down, and recreate again for each new test environment. Technicians worked continuously to go from a superheated 100-degree desert condition to a below-freezing icebox in only three days.
«McKinley Climatic Laboratory maintains quickness and technical proficiency by retaining our own staff of highly experienced welders, machinists, electricians, instrumentation experts, test assembly personnel and refrigeration operators», said William Higdon, the lab’s technical advisor. «Our main mission is to support the warfighter and to ensure any environment they encounter in the field; their equipment has already been proven in those extremes».
The Jolly Green II created some unique challenges for McKinley Lab personnel. The lab technicians created a system specifically for the HH-60W to remove the aircraft’s exhaust. Thorough exhaust removal is a critical part of maintaining the controlled temperature conditions needed for chamber testing, according to lab technicians working on the test.
The design of the ventilation system meant the aircraft’s blades were removed for the duration of the testing. The lab’s in-house fabrication shop also specially designed brackets for the aircraft’s weapons among other items.
«Successful completion of this test is absolutely shared with the Sikorsky and McKinley teams», said Ben Walker, 413th Flight Test Squadron lead test engineer for the effort and Air Force PALACE Acquire journeyman. «Everyone worked together extremely well and we completed on time and on budget. I am very thankful for this opportunity to perform exciting engineering work, while also supporting the warfighter».
After testing in the climatic lab, the HH-60W will return to Sikorsky’s test facility in West Palm Beach for further evaluation. The HH-60W developmental test program is a joint effort between Sikorsky, the 413th FLTS, the 88th TES and Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center. Test aircraft are primarily split between Duke Field here and Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach facility.
«Testing on the combat rescue helicopter continued amidst the chaos of COVID-19», said Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. «While the situation could change at any moment, we have not lost any test schedule thus far. That is a testament to the entire team’s attitude and willingness to work through challenges».
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, will build 12 additional HH-60W Jolly Green II 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 Jolly Green II is an all-new helicopter based on the proven UH-60M Black Hawk and customized 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 underway, with Lot 2 assembly to follow. The program remains on track to meet contract delivery of RAA in 2020.
The HH-60W Jolly Green II arrived on February 27, 2020 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 Combat Search and Rescue (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 honor 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 Jolly Green II 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 Jolly Green II 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.
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 U.S. 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).