HH-60W Driving Overhaul Of Air Drive’s Search And Rescue Playbook


The U.S. Air Drive’s first two Sikorsky HH-60W Jolly Inexperienced II Fight Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopters arrived at Nellis Air Drive Base, Nevada, in April forward of formal Operational Take a look at and Analysis (OT&E), which is being led by the Air Drive Operational Take a look at and Analysis Heart (AFOTEC). Their arrival got here at a turbulent time for the eagerly-awaited “Whiskey,” being shortly after a resolution to curtail the brand new helicopter’s procurement was included within the FY23 finances that was printed in late March.

The USAF’s weary HH-60G Pave Hawk CSAR helicopter fleet has lengthy been in want of recapitalization after a long time of heavy operational use, but the choice would depart the USAF with simply 75 HH-60Ws. That is properly in need of the originally-envisaged purchase of 113 HH-60Ws, and in addition of the present 99-strong fleet of HH-60Gs. USAF management says it needs to curtail Jolly Inexperienced II procurement because of the altering risk surroundings from superior adversaries comparable to China. Congress has since come again and demanded a focused fleet dimension of a minimum of 85 helicopters be included within the FY23 Nationwide Protection Authorization Act.

Editor’s Be aware: Welcome to Inside Nellis Week day three at The Conflict Zone! Every day this week we can have a significant function on the plane, ways, munitions, and folks which might be main the world in air fight coaching and growth.

“We acquired our first two HH-60Ws in April,” mentioned Lt Col Keith “Donk” Craine, commander of the 88th Take a look at and Analysis Squadron (TES) and Director of the CSAR Mixed Take a look at Drive (CTF) at Nellis. “These are literally the primary two HH-60Ws off the manufacturing line and the majority of the Developmental Take a look at [DT] was accomplished with them. They’re closely instrumented, however ultimately that tools will get pulled out to make them extra operationally consultant, and extra helpful for the Nellis neighborhood.”

Lt Col Keith “Donk” Craine, commander of the 88th Take a look at and Analysis Squadron (TES) and Director of the CSAR Mixed Take a look at Drive (CTF) at Nellis. Jamie Hunter

Nellis is an especially necessary location for USAF CSAR. The 88th TES sits beneath the CSAR CTF, with Det 1 of the 413th Flight Take a look at Squadron (FLTS) additionally resident to conduct DT. “We’re all in the identical buildings,” Craine explains. “We share workplace house and sorties and get early seems to be on new capabilities for that tactical view.”

“The CSAR CTF is the umbrella group for conducting each developmental and operational testing for the HH-60G, the HH-60W, the Guardian Angel weapons system – which is Pararescuemen, Fight Rescue Officers and Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape [SERE] consultants, in addition to remoted personnel.” 

Nellis additionally options an operational CSAR unit within the type of the 66th Rescue Squadron (RQS). “The thirty fourth Weapons Squadron [WPS] is throughout the road too,” says Craine. “They run the Weapons Teacher Course for HH-60 and HC-130, so we’re shut with them and regularly fly Weapons College syllabus sorties.” 

The first flight of the HH-60W came about on Might 17, 2019, and DT was primarily undertaken at Duke Discipline, Florida, by the 413th FLTS, with the small 88th TES Det 2 additionally in situ to offer early operational suggestions all through. 

“The most important change within the “Whisky” is that we’re changing some very drained and worn-out HH-60Gs which were put via the wringer in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the globe within the final 20 years. We’re seeing a big enhance within the quantity of upkeep required to be able to hold them flying. So we now have an plane within the HH-60W that once we schedule it, we will rely on it being able to fly. Most vital from an operational standpoint is a contemporary cockpit. Within the HH-60G, now we have spherical dials and gauges, however now now we have a cockpit with 4 multifunction shows, fashionable communications, and a knowledge hyperlink functionality which can permit us to combine higher with the remainder of the Fight Air Forces [CAF].”

I anticipate this fall we’re in all probability going to fly a lot of sorties with the Weapons College. “We anticipate there’s going to be fairly vital modifications in what the syllabus seems to be like shifting from the HH-60G to the HH-60W and so we’re going to assist them develop that syllabus and make the most of the brand new capabilities.

The HH-60W Jolly Inexperienced II arrives on the 58th Particular Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Drive Base, in December 2020. USAF

Craine says Nellis has grown a extra sturdy footprint of HH-60Ws as of July when it began full-scale aircrew conversion coaching. The primary two helicopters really arrived sooner than anticipated, however with DT full they could possibly be launched to Nellis three months early. A 3rd plane was delivered in June, with one per 30 days from then onwards till the tip of the 12 months. The primary two at Nellis are the one examples the take a look at items will really obtain. The rest will probably be assigned to the WIC, however they are going to all be shared.

The HH-60W is a by-product of Sikorsky’s UH-60M, however it is a new airframe, with elements that don’t exist on some other H-60, as Craine explains. “Certainly one of these is the gas tanks. Now we have 4,300 lbs of gas that we will carry internally – that’s virtually twice the inner gas capability of any H-60. It means now we have the efficiency of the UH-60M however about 250 nm of vary, which supplies us round 10-Quarter-hour within the terminal [rescue] space. We even have aerial refueling functionality, plus the HH-60W has lively vibration management that reduces crew fatigue, making it a lot simpler to fly.”

Explaining the advantage of working at Nellis, Craine says: “Now we have every little thing from the flexibility to fly at excessive altitude via to brown-out landings within the desert. One other necessary issue is the targets we will use. We will fireplace at 360-degrees even with the .50 cal gun. That’s fairly uncommon. However an important factor is our capacity to work with so many differing kinds right here. Now we have the 422nd TES proper right here, and now we have the 556th TES that flies Basic Atomics MQ-9s. It means now we have consultants from all communities, and conversely, they will additionally see what we will do.” 

One of many first two HH-60Ws on the flightline at Nellis AFB. Jamie Hunter

The CSAR CTF isn’t just concerning the {hardware}, it additionally features a Fight Rescue Officer, two SERE specialists, and 5 Pararescuemen. The Guardian Angel division is presently combining DT and OT to take a deep take a look at new kits and Techniques, Methods, and Procedures (TTPs). 

“Our latest division is Remoted Personnel, which we stood up after the annual CAF Weapons and Techniques Convention [WEPTAC] earlier this 12 months,” explains Craine. “There’s a number of concentrate on platforms, however finally an important a part of the restoration course of is the remoted individual themselves. If they don’t seem to be actively collaborating within the restoration, it makes our job considerably tougher.”

“Beforehand, now we have approached it from an tools standpoint; the radios, issues like that, and we haven’t appeared on the TTPs to make them simpler, make it straightforward for us to search out them, however conversely very tough for the adversary to search out them behind enemy strains. Lots of our TTPs have been in place since Vietnam, so it’s one thing we’ve began dipping our toes into as a result of we’ve been utilizing outdated, or not totally vetted, TTPs in a number of circumstances. We’re due to this fact making a full go on all of this.”

“There’s additionally an tools component to this. Some items are nonetheless flying round with the outdated PRC90, which is a Vietnam-era radio. So, suggestions on the next-gen survival radio is one factor we’re concerned in. Now we have prioritized reliability, ruggedness, and battery life.” Many aircrews world wide carry smartphones, however Craine underscores that their utility in day-to-day life could not translate into navy operations. “Ejecting at 400 kts means you want a rugged radio. A smartphone could not survive that course of. It definitely can’t be immersed in water for hours on finish. So, touchscreen telephones lack sure capabilities – despite the fact that survival apps may appear advantageous. Truthfully, I’d relatively know precisely the place an remoted individual is quicker, so I can go rescue them earlier than they want any of that different stuff.”

The badge of the CSAR CTF at Nellis AFB. Jamie Hunter

The CSAR CTF at Nellis is taking fashionable personnel restoration into a brand new technology on a number of fronts, not simply the HH-60W itself. Whereas the USAF needs to have a look at the way it will pluck endangered remoted personnel to security in highly-contested environments, it should additionally guarantee it has the proper means at its disposal within the instant future. That’s the position of the Nellis CTF that Craine leads. 

Of the intent to chop procurement to 85 plane, Craine acknowledges that it’ll clearly have an effect on USAF CSAR capability. “The HH-60W will give us a lot improved functionality, however the lowered numbers imply that we should lean extra closely on our worldwide and joint companions to ensure we cowl this wide-ranging and enduring mission set.”

Contact the editor: Tyler@thedrive.com


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