MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The 23d Wing and 347th Rescue Group received the U.S. Air Force’s first two HH-60W Jolly Green II combat rescue helicopters Nov. 5, here.
The delivery of the new model is significant to the personnel recovery mission as it begins the transition from its predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk, which has been flown for more than 26 years.
“Rescue is all about the Airmen who execute the mission,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Geoffroy, 41st Rescue Squadron commander. “At the end of the day, this is a tool that we can use to save lives in a more effective manner. We’re excited for the tool and we’re excited to learn about the aircraft and make it better over time, but it all comes down to the people.”
“Being first is an awesome place to be; we’re paving the way for the rest of the rescue community,” Geoffroy continued. “We’re going to be doing some front-line testing as the 41st [RQS]. What that means is we’ll put [the Jolly Green II] through its paces from a tactical perspective to make sure the aircraft meets the requirement the Air Force set forth to execute the rescue mission.”
The Jolly Green II introduces more modern capabilities to the rescue community than it’s predecessor, while maintaining the characteristics that made the Pave Hawk an effective system for nearly three decades.
“Although it will look very similar [to the Pave Hawk] from the outside, what you’ll see is that you have a significantly improved avionics system built around the regular Hawk airframe,” Geoffroy said. “The most significant improvement is our ability to integrate with new aircraft that exist in the Air Force and the joint inventory. Some of the new systems will allow us to get real-time data information dumps from those aircraft, find the survivor at a faster pace, [and] it gives us a more-survivable platform to be able to prosecute the mission and stay safe while we’re doing it.”
The Jolly Green II also features some structural updates that will help aircrew conduct their mission more efficiently.
“There’s expanded space in the back of the cabin … that allows us to bring in more patients and for the pararescuemen to have more area … to use some of the kit they have to more effectively save lives,” Geoffroy said. “[Also] there was a block between the front of the aircraft, where the pilots sit, and the back, where the [special missions aviators] sit, that’s been removed. That will give us more capability to bring the special missions aviators into the fight in the front of the aircraft.”
This improved integration is important because it comes down to the Airmen to use this new tool effectively to get the job done.
“Our rescue professionals are always going to the get the job done,” said Col. Dan Walls, 23d Wing commander. “But this is a momentous step on the path of modernizing their tools and increasing capability so that somebody’s worst day isn’t their last.”
The Airmen assigned to the 41st RQS and the 723d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron will have a unique opportunity to test and evaluate the first in a new wave of military aircraft.
“Once we have the ability to fly the aircraft [at home station] we will enter a seasoning period, which will take us about six months,” Geoffroy said. “Then we’ll go into the initial operational test and evaluation process; that’s supposed to take approximately six months. Then we’ll prepare the aircraft and the unit for deployment from that point forward.
“I think we’re the right ones to lead this. We’re ready; we have the people that we’ve hand-selected to execute this testing and the unit is ready to lead the transition. It’s going to be a lot over the next couple of years, but at the end of it – when we look back – the triumph that we’re going to have is going to be something that these guys and girls can own forever.”