August 7, 1984: First Rescue Mission For HH-60 Helicopter

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The HH-60D flew its first rescue mission, successfully rescuing a man and a woman who had become stranded overnight at the 10,000 ft level in the High Sierras. The helicopter had been undergoing high-altitude testing at Coyote Flats, near Bishop. Coyote Flats was a remote and unimproved bivouac site with a grass landing strip where test personnel lived in tents and were supplied by air during test evaluations.

This is a steep and rocky road, best suited to high clearance 4X4 vehicles. Much of Coyote Flat is almost 10,000 feet in elevation. Views of Palisade Glacier at the South end of the Flat.  No water or Facilities in this area.

In 1981, the U.S. Air Force chose the UH-60A Black Hawk to replace its HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. After acquiring some UH-60s, the Air Force began upgrading each with an air refueling probe and additional fuel tanks in the cabin. The machine guns were changed from 7.62 millimeter M60s to .50 caliber XM218s. These helicopters were referred to as "Credible Hawks" and entered service in 1987.  Afterwards, the Credible Hawks and new UH-60As were upgraded and designated MH-60G Pave Hawk. These upgrades were to be done in a two-step process. However, funding allowed only 16 Credible Hawks to receive the second step equipment. These helicopters were allocated to special operations use. The remaining 82 Credible Hawks received the first step upgrade equipment and were used for combat search and rescue. In 1991, these search and rescue Pave Hawks were redesignated HH-60G.

The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. It features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes an integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation systems, satellite communications, secure voice, and Have Quick communications. The term PAVE stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment.

All HH-60Gs have an automatic flight control system, night vision goggles lighting and forward looking infrared system that greatly enhances night low-level operations. Additionally, some Pave Hawks have color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system that gives the HH-60G an all-weather capability. Pave Hawk mission equipment includes a retractable in-flight refueling probe, internal auxiliary fuel tanks, two crew-served 7.62 millimeter miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns and an 8,000 pound capacity cargo hook. To improve air transportability and shipboard operations, all HH-60Gs have folding rotor blades.

Pave Hawk combat enhancements include a radar warning receiver, infrared jammer and a flare/chaff countermeasure dispensing system. HH-60G rescue equipment includes a hoist capable of lifting a 600-pound load from a hover height of 200 feet and a personnel locating system. A number of Pave Hawks are equipped with an over-the-horizon tactical data receiver that is capable of receiving near real-time mission update information.

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