The HH-60W is replacing the HH-60G, even if the procurement will be terminated earlier with less helicopters that initially planned.
The newest U.S. Air Force combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W Jolly Green II, has finally reached the IOC (Initial Operational Capability). The milestone was celebrated with a ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, one of the first locations to receive the HH-60W, on Sept. 9, 2022. The public announcement was however delayed, with Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, giving the news on October 4 and the Public Affairs releasing the info on October 12.
“It’s an exciting day for Combat Rescue as we bring a new platform and its upgraded capabilities into operation,” said Maj. Gen. David Lyons, Director of Operations at Air Combat Command. “This declaration is the culmination of years of hard work and vision. Current and future combat environments require us to maneuver further and faster than ever before, and the capabilities provided by the Jolly Green II supports the platform’s viability for our Air Force Personnel Recovery core function for as long as possible.”
In the press release it is specified that the IOC means the Air Force now possesses sufficient HH-60Ws, logistics requirements and trained Airmen to support a 30-day deployment to any independent location with a package of four aircraft. As a matter of fact, the helicopter was deployed as soon as the IOC was declared, as shown in photos published few days ago on DVIDS.
At least two helicopters were shown in the photos while they were loaded on C-17s at Moody AFB on Sept. 19 and 27. No details were released, with the captions saying only “Moody Airmen set out on the first-ever operational deployment of the HH-60W to provide rescue services in support of contingency operations.”
On Sept. 7, 2022, just a couple of days before the IOC declaration, the 41st Rescue Squadron and the 38th Rescue Squadron completed the first rescue mission in the Jolly Green II. The South Georgia Medical Center requested assistance for a patient transfer to Tampa, Florida, and “Air Force Rescue 490”, which just returned from a four‐hour training sortie, was immediately launched after a quick turnaround.
The first HH-60W helicopters first flew in 2019 and were delivered to the U.S. Air Force in November 2020, after they underwent extensive testing at Duke Field. The Air Force was initially expected to receive 113 helicopters, later reduced to 108, as part of the Combat Rescue Helicopter program. However, it now appears the procurement of the HH-60W will end in FY2023, further reducing the fleet to just 75 helicopters, which is also less than the 100 HH-60Gs that it should replace.
Based on the UH-60M, the HH-60W includes a number of improvements over the HH-60G, with a focus on range and survivability. The name Jolly Green II was chosen as a reference to the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. The two helicopters were replaced by the HH-60G Pave Hawk and the CV-22 Osprey, respectively.