88th USAF Squadron tests ‘The Whiskey’ helo armed with 12,7mm M2HB

WASHINGTON — The US Air Force is launching the final phase of operational tests of its latest combat rescue helicopter HH-60W Jolly Green II nicknamed “Whiskey”, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.

88th USAF Squadron tests 'The Whiskey' helo armed with 12,7mm M2HB
Photo credit: Air Recognition

The HH-60W Jolly Green II, which is derived from the H-60M Black Hawk, was manufactured by Sikorski and should inherit the now obsolete HH-60G equivalent of the Pave Hawk, which has been in service with the Air Force since the early 1980s.

Initial tests of Whiskey have already been completed by the 413th Flight Test Squadron, which evaluated the helicopter’s weapons and then certified them. Operational tests by the 88th USAF Squadron are now underway to establish its combat capabilities, after which it will undergo various techniques and procedures, as well as digital integration capabilities. The BBC plans the first real test of the HH-60W Jolly Green II to be during the large-scale Black Flag exercise in Nelis.

88th USAF Squadron tests 'The Whiskey' helo armed with 12,7mm M2HB
Photo credit: Pan.bg

Change in plans

The HH-60W Jolly Green II is designed as a combat rescue helicopter based on US experience with rebels and small military units in the Middle East. But that will have to change, says Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “The service has changed course as part of a shift in focus to a high-class battle against China or Russia in which airspace will be heavily contested,” Kendall said during a briefing on the 2023 fiscal budget.

According to Kendall, when the United States ordered 113 helicopters for $ 7.6 billion, “the service focused on insurgent-style conflicts in which the United States enjoyed almost undisputed airspace.”

HH-60W Jolly Green II

Externally, the HH-60W mimics much of the form and function of the UH-60M complete with a two-person flight crew in side-by-side seating at the nose. Vision out-of-the-cockpit is excellent with large-view panes being used. Entry is by hinged, automobile-style doors while access to the cabin is through the typical Black Hawk-style sliding doors.

88th USAF Squadron tests 'The Whiskey' helo armed with 12,7mm M2HB
Photo credit: Air Recognition

The nose of the helicopter seats an aerial refueling probe, allowing the helicopter access to even longer operational ranges than is possible on internal fuel stores. A complex sensor fit is installed at the “chin” and given unfetter views over the terrain ahead. Over the sides of the vehicle are pintle mounts supporting various USAF vehicle weapons including the air-cooled 12.7mm M2HB Browning Heavy Machine Gun [HMG] for suppression of enemy elements.

88th USAF Squadron tests 'The Whiskey' helo armed with 12,7mm M2HB
Photo credit: Af.mil

A powered winch is noted over the starboard side of the airframe, used to recover downed airmen. The twin turboshaft engine arrangement is seated over the passenger cabin and used to drive a four-bladed composite main rotor blade and a four-bladed tail rotor unit offset to the starboard. Ground-running is via a tail-dragger undercarriage arrangement with main legs set under center mass and a tailwheel at the rear.

Internally, the cabin can be arranged to meet certain mission requirements. This includes stacking medical litters for the rescue of multiple airmen, a “clean configuration” offering more internal space, and a mix of the two to cover a broader mission set [including troop transportation]. Beyond its expected military role, the HH-60W could relatively easily double as a civilian-market humanitarian / Search and Rescue [SAR] solution, either overland or in the maritime environment.

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