Two Sikorsky-built HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH) are preparing for their maiden flights, which will take place in mid-2019 at the Sikorsky West Palm Beach site in Florida, US.
Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin company) has fully-assembled the two CRH, and the CRH HH-60W flight test team is currently preparing both aircraft for flight by conducting final installation of instrumentation and ground run testing.
The aircraft will be delivered to the US Air Force, and Lockheed Martin notes that the testing which is currently underway ‘marks formal entry into the flight test program that culminates in Ready Assets Available (RAA), allowing the Air Force to declare Initial Operational Capability (IOC)’.
Sikorsky Director, Combat Rescue Helicopter programme Greg Hames commented on the development: "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," he said. "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 CRH."
The first of the two helicopters is due to go into testing with the new Tactical Mission Kit - the HH-60W team completed the System Configuration Test Readiness Review milestones for the kit last year.
The integration of sensors, radar, and multiple defence systems on the aircraft will bring added intelligence into the cockpit, enhancing pilots' situational awareness to complete missions, which is ‘key to improving aircraft and isolated personnel survivability’, Lockheed Martin notes. In addition, the new fuel system on the HH-60W nearly doubles the capacity of the internal tank featured on a UH-60M Black Hawk, giving the Air Force crew extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battle space.
In total, the Air Force programme of record calls for 112 helicopters to replace its ageing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters – a total of nine aircraft will be built in Connecticut during the Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the programme: four EMD aircraft and five System Demonstration Test Articles.
"Our team is working every day to build and deliver a superior quality helicopter to the US Air Force for this critical mission," added Hames. "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."