USAF’s HH-60 Rescue Choppers Will Only Be 50 Percent Mission Ready By 2015

Yup, the Air Force’s fleet of 93 HH-60 Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters will only be ready to fly missions 50 percent of the time by 2015, according to service brass.

Only 93 of the remaining fleet of 99 Sikorsky HH-60G search and rescue helicopters are flyable. They are soldiering on despite major cracks in 66 of the airframes. The aircraft have a mission capable rate of 60%, but that is expected to fall to 50% by 2015.

That’s from Flight Global citing Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Kane’s testimony before lawmakers this week.

The service has been trying to replace the heavily-used Pave Hawk fleet for years (CSAR-X, anyone?). We’ll see what happens with its latest effort, dubbed the combat rescue helicopter, given the huge budget cuts that are on the way.

  • Stan

    They can replace them whenever they want to with new build HH-60s but they want a totally new helo. So they are suffering with their decision.

  • tiger

    Another sign that there are more important Needs in the USAF besides MIG chasing fighters. Many think we should spend on nothing else.

  • Dave

    How about the off the shelf S-92 with proven H-60 technology and common parts. If not that then the MH-53J’s from th 1st SOW were placed in the boneyard a couple of years ago even though they had had more life hours to go after SLEP and other rufurbishment and upgrades over the years. USAF placed them in boneyard because some generals decided USAF special ops was getting out of the helicopter business.
    Heck the US department of state is buying refurbed and upgraded H-3’s to fly their personnel around. Respectfully, a former USAF helcopter mechanic.

  • Lance

    Easy fix either buy CH-53Es from the marines and upgraded them and they can also just buy new U-60M from the Army add some USAF upgrades and fixed. With every dollar going to save the F-35 I doubt they will be a any new new helicopter. I know the trolls here will Bo me for saying that they want new toys whaaa. Not going to happen have to make due. Buying newer airframes and adding improvements can do for the ext decade.

  • Saw the refub location for these machines down in Clearwater Florida some years back. Was great on the Excel spreadsheet. USAF could sustain 3 of these for every one of the bigger helos it replaced. However. It is odd that such a high use community in the mid-East wars now can’t be refurbished / replaced for not much money when compared to all the other things. Interesting USAF economics. Spend up to $100B for the F-22 and F-35 combined thus far and end up with 120 combat coded F-22s. Maybe the Pauper USAF could learn more about how to make ends meet and/or live within their means.

    • William C.

      So F-15s and F-16s forever. I’d hope our country more capable than that.

  • guess

    One of the most heavily used airframes, been shot up in combat ops for a decade. Yet we can’t run a succesful replacement program… seems like if it doesn’t go mach 1+ it isn’t a necessity to the airforce

  • Tigger

    How screwed up is this? Yet, there is an open checkbook on the major cost over runs on the F35. Really F’d up!

    • TallinOK

      Totally agree.

  • ltfunk

    The pentagon has a long list of projects that must die so that money can be siphoned off to feed Lockheed. Its everything from the HH-60 replacement to submarine upgrades and replacements.

  • VTGunner

    Buy 120 MH-60S’s and put refueling probes on them. You now have a much more powerful aircraft with more advanced sensors than on the current HH-60G’s and you can share logistics with the Navy.

    Simple. Cheap. And this could start happening now.

  • Ryan

    Its about time the Air Force scraps their “Search and Rescue” program. They have lost their mission, and now are doing majority medevac overseas rather than rescuing downed pilots. Get rid of your failing SAR program, spend the money on CAS mission and let the Army take it.

    • blight_

      That’s because there are plenty of troopers who need medevac, and not a lot of pilots that need SAR but still the potential to require SAR in the future. And if you have a helicopter and potentially trained medical personnel ready to roll out on a moment’s notice, why wouldn’t you use them?

    • Jay

      Are you serious? I have Army Ranger friends that have told me that if it wasn’t for the Air Force Pararescue (which is the most successful SAR program in the world) they would not be around.

      Here’s their story: “I went in with a TACP to assist in an airstrike on a cave in the Afgan mountains. After calling in the airstrike we start getting lit up from enemy small arms fire. The TACP got shot and was bleeding out. I grabbed his radio and called for medevac and air support. The army did s***. They said it was too hot for their medevac and weren’t coming. A few minutes later I hear chatter over the radio, it was the Air Force. They said, “We’re coming for you.” If it wasn’t for the Air force Pararescue I wouldn’t be here.”

      The Air Force is responsible for all branches’ SAR in hot situations. Because they get called for the toughest jobs when no one else will do them. Have some respect.

  • John

    Ryan, so they were using Army flight medics inplace of PJ’s on the Pedro’s?

  • Mark Bigge

    If they’re looking for the best NV gear for their pilots, AI’s got a lot of sweet gen3 goggles

  • PolicyWonk

    They should use Osprey’s for this task – much faster, longer range, etc.

  • majrod

    The biggest cause of this problem is USAF indecisiveness. Buying Pavehawk replacments is an easy fix. There is more to the problem than just the tired HH60s. Someone wants a new toy or the HH60s aren’t enough.

    MH47s are also a potential solution at a fraction of the cost of the CH53s.

    The Osprey would also be a great solution to this requirement because of its ability to get in and out quicker than a helo.

  • J McKinney

    Former H60 rescue pilot- the mission is not easliy replaced by anyone. Yes everyone has H60s but not configured the same and manned with Para-Rescue.

    It looks easy from the oputside to just hand off the mission to the Army and they can do a respectable job of getting injured to definitive care. Unless othe rservices are goign to start carrying special forces trained personnel on all their recovery missions in battle zones you might think twice about saying lets just dump the AF Rescue.

  • Dave

    Should of held on to the MH-53s….just sayin

  • tiger

    Still comes down to robbing Peter to pay for Paul. You can’t have new Fighters, Tankers or Coin planes & SAR Choppers at the same smaller DOD pie. Defense dollars are what the POTUS & Congress say they are.

  • ich

    Great discussion…again. Had the same conversations (just different airframes) in the early 80s (most of you won’t recall Initiative 17), the 90s (when CSAR went from MAC to the CAF to AFSOC to ACC–not necessarily I that order…gotta forgive my lack of recall on the gory details), the last decade (CSAR-X, PR-X, or whatever the nomme de diem was), and now this. Always an issue…and the AF (or Air Component) always “steps up” when it counts. Nobody can replace the USAF CSAR capabilty at a reasonable cost…and it’s a capability, when push comes to shove, that nobody is willing to let go away. So, like always, USAF will eventually find a way. We can only hope that old airframes, despite the yeoman efforts of our fantastic maintainers, don’t kill any of our outstanding crews in the meantime.

  • Pave Low CC

    I was a USAF helicopter crew chief for 20 years. The Air Force needs to submit a cost estimate on having the Pave Hawks zeroed out at Corpus Christi, TX depot. The Army Nat’l Guard is having their UH-60-A’s zeroed out on the entire airframe at Corpus. This would take time, but it would save a lot of money in the long run.


    Crew Chief butts drive me nuts

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  • TM

    As a former Dustoff medic (80-89) involved with the old M.A.S.T. program, I can tell you that PJs can run circles around Army Flight Medics. Now I’m proud of my service and the Dustoff tradition, but the days of unarmed helos with red crosses and no guns is obselete and ridiculous. Care in combat is Trauma Care…peroid. Airway, stop bleeding, start IVs. which PJs are great at. Plus they can get to the patient anywhere. I say if the Army is serious about continuing the MEDEVAC mission, dump the red crosses, arm the ships, and train up the Flight Medics in tactics. The trouble is…(I’ll say it) the Army is stuck in this PC mind set that the bad guys honor the geneva convention…crazy. Not to mention they have to keep the career field (flight medic) open to women to appease the looney left wing.