Today on Know your aircraft lets talk about the famous Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.
The Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk was introduced in 1991 by the defense contractor Sikorsky as a highly modified version of the very popular 1979 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter. Operated by the United States Air Force and the Republic of South Korea Air Force, the Pave Hawk’s primary mission is to be a premier combat search and rescue helicopter, conducting both civil and military recovery operations in hostile environments.
Over the years, it has also demonstrated its success in rescue operations, being used for medical evacuations, disaster response, and NASA space flight support.
Powered by two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines, the Pave Hawk has a Maximum takeoff weight of 22,000lbs. It incorporates an in-flight refueling probe, unlike the initial Black Hawk helicopter. It also features a 97.5-gallon internal auxiliary fuel tank, allowing them to fly for just over four hours with a range of 504nautic miles. Pave Hawk helicopters are equipped with folding rotor blades, which allows for easy transportation by sea or air, usually via a Boeing C-17 Globemaster.
Most missions involve a crew of five consisting of a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and two Pararescuemen. The helicopter’s interior is designed as an air ambulance, configured with an advanced life support system able to care for up to four stretcher patients. Within two minutes, this can be reconfigured to carry six normal ambulatory patients. Alongside the advanced life support system, the helicopter houses an integrated oxygen-generating system for specialized onboard patient care.
Designed to be operated in the most challenging environments, the Pave Hawk is equipped with night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared technology to assist in low-level night operations. They are also able to land vertically in almost any unprepared area.
Pave Hawks are equipped with a rescue hoist of 600-pound lift capacity. These helicopters can hoist survivors from an impressive hover height of 200 feet above the ground. The hoist can recover a single person on a rescue stretcher or three people simultaneously on a rescue seat in a wide range of weather conditions. They are also fitted with a massive 8,000lb capacity cargo hook to carry external loads.
After nearly two decades of use, the HH-60G will soon be replaced by the newest variant of Pave Hawk, known as the HH-60W. This highly modified variant features significantly improved defense systems such as cyber and airborne threat protection, more aligned to the challenges of operating in 2021 and beyond.