First ever aerial refueling for HH-60W Jolly Green II combat search and rescue helicopter

HH-60W Jolly Green II combat rescue helicopter Makes First Combat Saves

By Dario Leone
Jan 14 2023
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HH-60W Jolly Green II combat rescue helicopters were involved in their first real-world casualty evacuation operation in the African area of responsibility.

A combined force of deployed US assets coordinated to save two lives of partner forces outside the wire in the Horn of Africa late this last December. The force consisted of HC-130J recovery aircraft and Guardian Angels from the 347th Rescue Group, as well as HH-60W Jolly Green II combat rescue helicopters in their first real-world casualty evacuation operation in the African area of responsibility (AOR).

As told by Tech. Sgt. Jayson Burns, 435th Air Expeditionary Wing, in the article Rescue force successfully saves two in first HH-60W combat CASEVAC in Africa AOR, the HH-60W and its sister squadrons are assigned to the Personnel Recovery Task Force (PRTF) under the direction of the 449th Air Expeditionary Group and the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC). The special capabilities and training of the HH-60W and its crews make it a unique capability with the AOR that enables commanders to reduce the overall risk to mission and risk to force.

“The PRTF is specifically manned, trained, and equipped to rapidly respond to emergency battlefield situations to return American, allied and partner forces to friendly control,” said Lt. Col. Thaddeus Ronnau, commander of the PRTF and regional director of the JPRC at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. “While personnel may be behind enemy lines, or far from needed support, this team is equipped to travel great distances and fight their way in and out if necessary to make the mission happen.”

Alert crews were activated during the pre-dawn hours and responded quicker than the required theater response times. The initial pick up of the injured was quick, and the team was in and out of the area without incident. They then immediately made for the nearest medical facility for trauma surgery while the Pararescuemen performed their own stabilizing emergency medical care in the aircraft’s cabin. The HC-130Js were then called to swiftly move the most seriously wounded member to another location for further treatment. Both lives were saved.

USAF declares Initial Operational Capability Of Sikorsky HH-60W Jolly Green II next generation combat rescue helicopter

“Everyone responded with complete professionalism, doing exactly what we train to do. We couldn’t have done it without the whole team,” said Capt. Abby Norwood of the 303rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron.

The successful recovery of isolated and/or injured persons is a force multiplier that transcends the tactical to the operational and strategic levels. It preserves critical resources and is a key element in sustaining the morale, cohesion, and fighting capability of joint and friendly forces. In particular, by bringing the team directly to the location, the HH-60W can shorten the time required to rescue an isolated and/or wounded individual.

As already reported, Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, declared the HH-60W Jolly Green II has reached initial operational capability on Oct. 4, 2022.

The declaration signifies that the US Air Force (USAF) 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 the sole dedicated combat rescue platform in the Department of Defense, the Jolly Green II Combat Rescue Helicopter builds on the decades-long legacy of USAF combat rescue and recapitalizes the critical combat search and rescue fleet providing USAF combat rescue warriors with the best capability for their critical and demanding lifesaving mission. The HH-60W Jolly Green II, which is replacing the aging HH-60G Pavehawk, was specially built for the Air Force’s combat rescue mission based on fully-vetted operational requirements.

Leveraging the proven survivability and reliability of the H-60M Black Hawk, the HH-60W Jolly Green II incorporates advanced digital design techniques, an open architecture for rapid mission system integration, an air refueling system, upgraded survivability and defensive systems, cabin and cockpit armor, integrated weapons, and increases main fuel tank capacity to 644 gallons. These advanced technologies enable the Jolly Green II to meet the Combatant Commander’s demands of today and the emerging Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) requirements in near peer competition and win in conflict.

USAF declares Initial Operational Capability Of Sikorsky HH-60W Jolly Green II next generation combat rescue helicopter

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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