New Combat Rescue Helicopter Reaches Key Milestone

By Stew Magnuson
Artist rendering of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter

Photo: Lockheed Martin

The Air Force’s combat rescue helicopter program recently passed a critical design review, paving the way for the program to proceed to an assembly, test and evaluation phase, its prime contractor Lockheed Martin announced May 30.


The joint Sikorsky and U.S. Air Force helicopter program team met in May with key partners from government and industry for an in-depth design review, according to a Lockheed Martin statement. Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky was acquired by Lockheed Martin after the contract for the newly designated HH-60W was awarded in 2014.


“This milestone is an important achievement and demonstrates Sikorsky and the Air Force are well aligned on the technical requirements of the HH-60W,” Tim Healy, Sikorsky combat rescue helicopter program director, said in a statement. “We got here by conducting several milestones on or ahead of schedule, and we are committed to staying on that track as we build the first HH-60W aircraft.”


The air vehicle critical design review milestone is one step in a long road for the Air Force’s effort to replace its fleet of search-and-rescue aircraft. The campaign to replace the HH-60 Pave Hawk began in 1999 and since then has undergone a series of cancellations and false starts.


“Conducting the air vehicle CDR demonstrates this helicopter system is well on its way to meeting the key program requirements of the Air Force,” Dave Schairbaum, Air Force combat rescue helicopter system program manager, said in the statement.


The Air Force awarded Sikorsky a $1.28 billion engineering, manufacturing and development contract in June 2014, which includes development and integration of the next-generation combat rescue platform and mission systems, delivery of four HH-60W helicopters, aircrew and maintenance training systems, and support for both, the statement said.


The service in January exercised a $203 million contract option with Sikorsky to provide five additional aircraft, bringing the total to nine. The training suite includes devices that span full-motion simulators and discrete aircraft systems, such as hoist and landing gear, the statement said.


The program of record calls for 112 helicopters to replace the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, which perform critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services. They were first built in 1982.


The HH-60W is an advanced variant of the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter design and features increased internal fuel capability for greater range, the statement said.


They will feature GE T700-701D engines and composite wide-chord main rotor blades to sustain maneuverability at high density altitudes.


The design includes an advanced tactical mission kit integrating multiple sensors, data links, defensive systems and other sources of intelligence information for use by combat rescue aircrews. It is designed with a weapons and cabin configuration specifically optimized for combat rescue and recovery operations, the statement said.


Industry and Air Force officials teams will meet again in September for the training systems critical design review.


Topics: Acquisition Programs, Air Force News, Aviation, Rotary Wing

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