Combat rescue helicopters made ready for maiden flights

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The maiden flight of Sikorsky’s HH-60W combat rescue helicopter is expected to happen before June, the company has announced.

Two fully assembled HH-60W combat rescue helicopters (CRH) are being prepared for their first flight at the Sikorsky West Palm Beach site in Florida.

Both aircraft have been built for the US Air Force and were transported last year to West Palm Beach following final assembly at Sikorsky’s facility in Stratford, Connecticut.

The aircraft test readiness review was completed in October 2018. The CRH HH-60W flight test team is currently preparing both aircraft for flight by conducting final installation of instrumentation and ground run testing.

This marks formal entry into the flight test program that enables the US Air Force to declare Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

Greg Hames, director of the combat rescue helicopter program at Sikorsky said, “Having these initial HH-60W helicopters in West Palm Beach for flight test is an exciting time for the Sikorsky team. It is the first step toward a low rate initial production decision later this year, which will allow Sikorsky to provide a constant production flow of aircraft to the warfighter.

“This is the point in the program when Sikorsky begins providing new aircraft into the warfighters’ hands, initiating transition to the vastly more capable and reliable HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.”

The first of the two HH-60W aircraft will enter flight test with the Tactical Mission Kit, a suite of sensors, radar, and defense systems designed to bring added intelligence into the cockpit and enhance pilots’ situational awareness

Sikorsky engineers completed the system configuration test readiness review milestones for the Tactical Mission Kit last year.

The HH-60W hosts an upgraded fuel system that nearly doubles the capacity of the internal tank on a UH-60M Black Hawk, giving the crew extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battle space. The CRH specification drives more capable defensive system, vulnerability reduction, weapons, cyber-security, environmental, and net-centric requirements than currently held by the HH-60G.

“Both Sikorsky and the Air Force remain committed to achieving a low rate initial production decision this year and getting this much-needed aircraft to our air men and women out in the field,” added Hames.

A total of nine aircraft will be built in Connecticut during the Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the program ― four EMD aircraft and five System Demonstration Test Articles. The Air Force program of record calls for 112 helicopters to replace its aging HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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