These photos show the first moments a US Air Force HH-60W Jolly Green II combat rescue helicopter completed its first in-flight refuelling.
Approximately 3,000 feet above the range at Eglin Air Force Base near Pensavola, Florida, the HH-60W Jolly Green II was successfully refuelled after drawing fuel from a hose and drogue carried by a Lockheed Martin HC-130J Combat King II.
The aircraft was piloted by both Air Force and Sikorsky pilots and flew at 110 knots in order to perform the contacts with the tanker. The flight lasted just under two hours.
The Jolly Green II is intended by the USAF to rescue downed pilots, as well as stranded military personnel from other service branches.
“This capability is essential for the [combat search and rescue] mission since it greatly extends the operating range of the aircraft and thus allows the unit to extend their rescue capabilities over a larger battlespace,” said Joe Whiteaker, the combat rescue helicopter program flight chief.
Unrefuelled, the combat rescue operates with a 195 nautical mile combat radius.
Major Andrew Fama, 413th FLTS, acted as lead pilot for the refuelling mission.
“It’s rare for a test pilot to have the opportunity to test a new aircraft replacing the one he or she flew operationally and to be the first one to do something like this,” Maj Fama said. “It was an honour to be the pilot to fly this mission and work with a truly professional test team.”
The USAF’s program of record calls for 113 of the next-gen helicopters to replace its ageing fleet of Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawks. The first production example of the HH-60W is scheduled for delivery in April 2021.