Tag Archives: HH-60G Pave Hawk

Details Emerge About Tragic Loss of Elite Air Force Pararescue Crew and Helicopter in Iraq.

A USAF HH-60 From Alaska Crashes, Crew of Seven Die Near Al-Qaim, Iraq on Thursday.

All seven crew members on board a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter were killed when it crashed in Iraq on Thursday, March 15, 2018. The aircraft belonged to the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. None of the crew killed in the crash were from Alaska according to a report filed in the Air Force Times on Friday, March 16, by journalist Stephen Losey.

The crash occurred in Anbar Province outside Al-Qaim, Iraq on the Syrian/Iraqi border 400 kilometers northwest of Baghdad along the Euphrates River.

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. A New York Times story published Friday, March 16, 2018 by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Al Baker reported that, “American officials could not immediately say why the aircraft went down killing all seven service members on board, although enemy fire was not believed to be the cause.”

The HH-60G Pave Hawk is an Air Force specific version of the Blackhawk helicopter with significant modifications for the combat rescue role and it is generally regarded as the most advanced version of the aircraft. Photos of the HH-60G Pave Hawks based at the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing often show the aircraft operating in the high mountains, equipped with snow-ski landing gear. When deployed to the Middle East the aircraft uses standard landing gear. The website for the Alaska Air National Guard 176th Wing lists only one squadron, the 210th Rescue Squadron, as operating the HH-60G. The 210th Rescue Squadron lists six HH-60G Pave Hawks on their official Air Force unit page.

The Air Force Times identified one of the Airmen killed in the crash as USAF Staff Sgt. Carl Enis. Sgt. Enis was an Air Force Reserve Pararescue operator from the 308th Rescue Squadron, 920th Rescue Wing from Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Florida. As a reserve Air Force Pararescueman, Enis also had a civilian career as a commercial real estate salesman in Tallahassee, Florida. He was described in media reports as, “an avid outdoorsman and devoted friend who had a knack for bringing people from different backgrounds together”.

Pararescue operator Staff Sgt. Carl Enis of the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is reported to be among the service members who died in the HH-60G Pavehawk crash in Iraq late Thursday. (Photo: Courtesy USAF)

Not all of the names of the personnel who died in Thursday’s crash have been released. USAF Central Command spokesperson Lt. Col. Damien Pickart reported via email on Friday that two of the seven airmen killed were Pararescue operators. Lt. Col. Pickart indicated the Department of Defense is expected to post the names and units of all of the airmen by Saturday afternoon.

A post did appear on the New York City Fire Department’s Facebook page saying that two of its firefighters, Christopher Zanetis and Christopher Raguso, were also killed in Thurday’s crash. Their Air Force rank was not indicated in the post.

The ABC affiliate in New York, ABC7, reported that Zanetis and Raguso and an additional two Airmen killed in the crash were members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, New York.

U.S. Air Force Pararescue units are credited with saving “over 1,000 lives in the Global War on Terror since 9/11” according to a 2011 report. During the 2005 hurricane Katrina between Florida and Texas in the United States, Air Force Pararescue operators of the 943rd Rescue Group from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona were credited with rescuing 1,043 people. Air Force Pararescue is generally regarded as one of the most capable special operations units in the world specifically tasked with combat rescue operations.

Top image: File photo of USAF HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter of the 210th Rescue Squadron. (Photo: USAF)

Watch C-17, A-10 and HC-130J Aircraft Operate From Delamar Dry Lake Bed (an emergency landing site for the X-15)

U.S. Air Force landed and took off from the Delamar Dry Lake Bed, the emergency landing site for the X-15.

C-17 Globemaster III airlifters from 57th Weapons Squadron, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 66th Weapons Squadron, HC-130J from the 34th Weapons Squadron as well as HH-60Gs belonging to the 66th Rescue Squadron took part in USAF Weapons School squadrons composite mission application and combat search and rescue operations at the Delamar dry lake bed on the NTTR (Nevada Test and Training Range).

Referred to as “Texas Lake” dry lake bed because of its resemblance to the state of Texas from the air, Delamar Lake landing strip was established in 1943 and, in the 1960s it was designated emergency landing site for the North American X-15, a rocket-powered, missile-shaped manned aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force and NASA capable to reach the edge of space at an altitude between 100,000 and 300,000 feet at speed exceeding 4,500 MPH (+7,270 km/h).

In fact, the dry lake bed was located underneath the Delamar Dry Lake Drop Zone where the X-15s brought to the launch altitude of 45,000 feet under the wing of a B-52 bomber, were dropped at a speed of Mach 0.8.

The Delamar Lake Landing Strip consists of a 15,000 ft long runway; still, considered the lack of obstacles, aircraft can land in any direction.

Along with making “unprepared landing strip operations” training possible, dry lakes can be particularly useful also in case of emergency: the huge lakebed can minimize the damage to a plane forced to land there. Here is what happened when a B-1 Lancer performed a crash landing on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base in 1989. Here you can find a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy airlifter making a successful emergency landing once again at Rogers Dry Lake in 2001.

Update: We have received an interesting email from Paul Raveling, from sierrafoot.org who provided more details about Delamar:

“Delamar Dry Lake was not the first/original dry lake designated for X-15 emergency landing. The first was Rogers, the NB-52A carrier did a spiral climb to keep the X-15 within gliding range for an emergency landing at all times until another uprange dry lake was in gliding range for the X-15. Delamar was used later in the program, notably as the launch dry lake for Bob White’s FAI world altitude record flight (314,750 feet). If my recollection is in gear, a total of 11 dry lakes were used as emergency landing sites for the X-15 program.

My recollection of the count of 11 is a bit hazy now. Groom was an “interesting” case, two NASA pilots discovered it by accident during the time only the USAF X-15 pilots were told it existed. I kept a mildly amusing email from Neil about how Jack McKay and Forrest Petersen discovered it while roaming around the desert in the NASA R4D.

Most X-15 flights had two or three dry lakes planned for emergency landings, up fo for if you count Rogers. On the morning of an X-15 flight the Air Force flew a crew to each, with gear including a full-sized fire truck. C-130s were the transport for these. Dry Lake locations also determined the number of chase planes used, to assure chase coverage for emergency landings anywhere on course.”

A quick look at why the HH-60G Pave Hawk is the perfect CSAR helicopter

U.S. Air Force HH-60H Pave Hawk helicopters at exercise Voijek Valour.

Taken on Mar. 3, the following cool pictures show HH-60G Pave Hawks belonging to the U.S. Air Force 56th Rescue Squadron (RQS) based at Royal Air Force Lakenheath operating out at Hullavington Airfield, England, during exercise Voijek Valour.

During the drills, the 56th RQS aircrews trained alongside USAF CV-22 Osprey Tiltrotors of the 7th Special Operations Squadron from RAF Mildenhall as well as with Chinook and Apache helicopters from RAF and Army Air Corps respectively.

56th RQS HH-60Gs

Voijek Valour, that saw the planning and execution of air assault missions onto Salisbury Plain, represented a unique training opportunity for the 56th RQS personnel who ensured the Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) duties during the exercise. “Because of the nature of our primary mission, we train a lot and take everything very seriously,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Bland, 56th RQS special missions aviator.

The unit’s tool to perform the mission is the HH-60G Pave Hawk, which is the dedicated USAF CSAR platform since Operation Desert Storm.

Pave Hawk

With more than 20 years of service the Pave Hawk has proved to be the ideal CSAR helicopter. “Search and rescue adopted the Black Hawk and threw everything on it that could make it the best search and rescue platform,” explained 1st Lt. Andrej Pulver, 56th RQS co-pilot. “The Pave Hawk is a really capable aircraft, to begin with, and has been designed, from the ground up, to find someone who is in danger and save their life.”

To perform its CSAR duties the HH-60G is fitted with an automatic flight control system, forward-looking infrared system, color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system that assists with finding and rescuing personnel anytime during the day or night.

CSAR Duties

Moreover for a combat rescue conducted behind enemy lines the defense for the helicopter is provided by two crew-served 7.62mm or .50-caliber machineguns.

The HH-60G is also equipped with a retractable, in-flight refueling probe and with internal auxiliary fuel tanks that, as explained by Bland, enable the Pave Hawk to fly longer distances “the best feature of the ‘60, which makes it as versatile as it is, is the fact that it has a refueling probe. We can extend our flight duty day all the way up to crew fatigue, if necessary, because of it.”

56th RQS Pave Hawk

Given the versatility of its machines the 56th Rescue Squadron can perform a wide variety of missions: the unit in fact provides rapid, deployable, worldwide combat search and rescue in support of humanitarian assistance, non-combatant evacuation and disaster relief capability for the U.S. European Command combatant commander and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in peacetime.

HH-60G

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez / U.S. Air Force

Video shows how difficult Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling can be

The following video depicts two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters refueling from an HC-130J Combat King II during Ex. Angel Thunder 2013.

Watch the helicopters blades coming dangerously close to the refueling hose as the pilots struggle to get in the proper position to plug the IFR (in-flight refueling) probe into the low speed paradrogue (or “basket”).

Ex. Angel Thunder is the world’s largest Personnel Recovery exercise providing the most realistic PR training environment available to USAF Rescue forces, as well as their Joint, Interagency, and International partners from Brazil to Uruguay.

HH-60G refueling

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