|HH-60 / MH-60 Pave Hawk|
|U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk|
|Role||Combat Search and Rescue helicopter|
|Manufacturer||Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation|
|Primary users||United States Air Force
Republic of Korea Air Force
|Unit cost||US$15.8 million|
|Developed from||Sikorsky S-70|
The Sikorsky MH-60G/HH-60G Pave Hawk is a twin turboshaft engine helicopter in service with the United States Air Force. It is a derivative of the UH-60 Black Hawk and incorporates the US Air Force PAVE electronic systems program. The HH-60/MH-60 is a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family.
The MH-60G Pave Hawk's primary mission is insertion and recovery of special operations personnel, while the HH-60G Pave Hawk's core mission is recovery of personnel under stressful conditions, including search and rescue. Both versions conduct day or night operations into hostile environments. Because of its versatility, the HH-60G may also perform peace-time operations. Such tasks include civil search and rescue, emergency aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC), disaster relief, international aid, counter-drug activities and NASA space shuttle support.
In 1981, the U.S. Air Force chose the UH-60A Black Hawk to replace its HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. After acquiring some UH-60s, the Air Force began upgrading each with an air refueling probe and additional fuel tanks in the cabin. The machine guns were changed from 0.308 in (7.62 mm) M60s to 0.50 in (12.7 mm) XM218s. These helicopters were referred to as "Credible Hawks" and entered service in 1987.
Afterward, the Credible Hawks and new UH-60As were upgraded and designated MH-60G Pave Hawk. These upgrades were to be done in a two step process. But funding only allowed 16 Credible Hawks to receive the second step equipment. These helicopters were allocated to special operations use. The remaining 82 Credible Hawks received the first step upgrade equipment and were used for combat search and rescue. In 1991, these search and rescue Pave Hawks were redesignated HH-60G.
The Pave Hawk is a highly-modified version of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. It features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes an integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation systems, satellite communications, secure voice, and Have Quick communications. The term PAVE stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment.
All HH-60Gs have an automatic flight control system, night vision goggles lighting and forward looking infrared system that greatly enhances night low-level operations. Additionally, some Pave Hawks have color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system that gives the HH-60G an all-weather capability. Pave Hawk mission equipment includes a retractable in-flight refueling probe, internal auxiliary fuel tanks, two crew-served (or pilot-controlled) 7.62 mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns and an 8,000 pound (3,600 kg) capacity cargo hook. To improve air transportability and shipboard operations, all HH-60Gs have folding rotor blades.
Pave Hawk combat enhancements include a radar warning receiver, infrared jammer and a flare/chaff countermeasure dispensing system. HH-60G rescue equipment includes a hoist capable of lifting a 600 pound (270 kg) load from a hover height of 200 feet (60 m), and a personnel locating system. A number of Pave Hawks are equipped with an over-the-horizon tactical data receiver that is capable of receiving near real-time mission update information.
The U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk is operated by the Air Combat Command (ACC), U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Air Education and Training Command (AETC), the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard (ANG) as of 2012. A number of HH-60Gs are also operated by the Air Force Material Command (AFMC) for flight test purposes.
During Operation Desert Storm, Pave Hawks provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition Air Forces in western Iraq, Saudi Arabia, coastal Kuwait and the Persian Gulf. They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for U.S. Navy sea, air and land (SEAL) teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion.
All MH-60Gs were subsequently divested by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) in 1991. At that time, most MH-60Gs were redesignated as HH-60Gs and transferred to Air Combat Command (ACC) and ACC-gained Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard units.
During Operation Allied Force, the Pave Hawk provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for NATO air forces, and successfully recovered two U.S. Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines.
In March 2000, three Pave Hawks deployed to Hoedspruit Air Force Base in South Africa, to support international flood relief operations in Mozambique. The HH-60Gs flew 240 missions in 17 days and delivered more than 160 tons of humanitarian relief supplies.
Air Force Pave Hawks from the Pacific theater also took part in a massive humanitarian relief effort in early 2005 in Sri Lanka to help victims of the tsunami. In the fall of 2005, Pave Hawks from various Air Force commands participated in rescue operations of Hurricane Katrina survivors, rescuing thousands of stranded people.
Pave Hawks have regularly operated during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and continue to be operated in Operation Enduring Freedom, supporting Army and Marine Corps ground combat operations and standby search and rescue support for U.S. and Coalition fixed-wing combat aircraft supporting those ground operations.
In March 2010, the U.S. Air Force announced a recapitalization plan to return its 99-aircraft inventory to 112 airframes by incremental replacement of aging HH-60Gs. A secondary plan to replace of 13 attrition HH-60s, seven of which have been lost in combat since 2001, has also begun implementation. The Air Force is deferring secondary combat search and rescue requirements that called for a larger helicopter. A UH-60M-based version was being offered as a replacement.
On 22 October 2012, the Air Force issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH). Four primary goals are hover performance, combat radius, payload, and cabin space. The primary mission of the CRH will be to recover isolated personnel from hostile or denied territory. It will also execute humanitarian missions, civil search and rescue, disaster relief, casualty and medical evacuation, and non-combatant evacuation operations. The new helicopter is to replace the HH-60G with a requirement for 112 aircraft. The helicopter must have a combat radius of 225 nm (416 km), a payload of 680 kg (1,500 lb), and space for up to four stretchers. Proposals will be submitted by January 2013 with the contract being awarded by September. Four developmental aircraft will be delivered in 2016, with five more in an initial operational and evaluation configuration in 2018. Low-rate initial production will add a further 18 helicopters, with the remaining 85 units to be procured during full-rate production. One aircraft quickly confirmed for the competition was the AW101.
By December 2012, competitors including AgustaWestland, EADS, Boeing, and Bell Helicopter had all dropped out of the CRH program. They determined that the RfP requirements favored the Black Hawk and would not reward extra capabilities offered by their aircraft. Sikorsky is still in the bidding and is likely to offer a modified variant of its MH-60 Black Hawk special operations helicopter.
Section information from USAF Almanac
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