The first pair of the Air Force’s new “Jolly Green” rescue helicopters — an aircraft with a legacy tracing back to the Vietnam War — arrived Thursday at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
The 23rd Wing and 347th Rescue Group received two HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters, flown in from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Training Academy in Stuart, Fla., the Air Force said in a news release Friday.
The service in February unveiled the name of its new combat rescue helicopter, which follows the tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and the HH-53 Super Jolly Green. The original chopper earned its nickname from a mashup of its green exterior paint and a toga-clad, green-hued cartoon giant featured in a 1960s-era canned-vegetable advertising campaign.
The delivery of the two helicopters marks the beginning of the service’s transition away from the HH-60G Pave Hawk model, which airmen have been flying for more than 26 years, the Air Force said.
The service will continue to use Pave Hawks until the planned acquisition of 108 Jolly Green IIs is complete, the Air Force said.
The Jolly Green II features many overall improvements over its predecessor, including better defensive system, hover performance, electrical capacity, avionics, cooling, weapons and cyber-security, the Air Force said.
The helicopter’s primary mission will be conducting operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war, both day and night, the Air Force said.
It will also be employed for non-warfighting operations such as civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, NASA space-flight support and rescue command and control, the Air Force said.
The Air Force developed the original HH-3E helicopter, dubbed the Jolly Green Giant by U.S. troops, by modifying Sikorsky’s CH-3 transport helicopter. The choppers entered the Vietnam War carrying armor plating and armament for its primary mission of combat search and rescue of downed airmen.
With a watertight hull, the chopper could land on water, and its large rear door it could be easily loaded and unloaded.
With aerial-refueling capability, it also had range, setting a record for helicopters in 1967 by flying nonstop from New York to Paris, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Crewmen of the HH-3 choppers were awarded 24 Air Force Crosses, more than 190 Silver Stars one Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett underscored the importance of the crews operating combat search and rescue missions during the February naming ceremony in Orlando, Fla.
“Reviving the Jolly Green name honors our combat search and rescue crews past and present,” Barrett said.
“Americans owe these courageous airmen the very best equipment,” she said. “The new combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W, improves range and survivability for safer search and rescue operations everywhere, every time.”
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