Air Force Prepares for First Combat Rescue Helicopter Flight

CRH-141124-F-ZU869-001The Air Force plans to conduct the first test flight of its new HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter in 2019 as a step toward fielding an operational aircraft in 2021 and reaching full-rate production by 2023, service officials said.

The new helicopter, called CRH, will be engineered to perform high-risk medical evacuations and other rescue and recovery missions. In total, the service plans to acquire 112 new CRH personnel recovery helicopters.

Designed as a replacement for the Air Force’s HH-60G Pave Hawk, the CRH design includes a handful of technological enhancements when compared with the existing model.

“The HH-60W increases maneuverability and increases range, payload and performance in all areas,” said Lt. Col. Regan Patrick, HH-60G pilot.

In June of last year, the Air Force awarded Sikorsky a development deal for the CRH which could stretch out 15 years and reach a value of $7.9 billion, Shelly Larson, deputy program manager, CRH, told

The initial part of the deal includes a $1.2 billion engineering and manufacturing development phase to deliver four helicopters and seven aircrew and maintenance training systems with associated product support, Larson explained.

Right now, the Air Force’s CRH team is preparing for an aircraft system requirements review in April of this year, to be followed by a training systems review in June, 2015.

“The aircraft preliminary design review is scheduled for April, 2016, with a training systems PDR scheduled for December 2016. Under the contract we also purchased the avionics systems testing in the labs and the contractor development testing in West Palm Beach, Fla. All of that development testing will take place prior to that first flight,” Larson explained.

Also in 2016, the Air Force plans to acquire five more test aircraft – a move which will bring the total number of test CRHs up to nine, she added.

The CRH aircraft design is based on the Army’s next-generation Black Hawk, the UH-60M. As a result, the CRH is being built with T700-GE-701D engines, composite wide-chord main rotor blades and corrosion-resistant structures, Air Force officials said.

At the same time, the CRH will increase the performance of on-board electrical generations when compared with the Army’s M-model Black Hawk.

The new helicopter will also feature four multi-function displays and a new mission computer system designed to link all the avionics together.

The Air Force is also working in the laboratory on a new technology, called 3D LZ, which will help the helicopter navigate what’s called a degraded visual environment – brown out or white out conditions.

The CRH will be able to transport two litters for medical patients or injured service members and have the ability to mount .50-cal and 7.62mm weapons on either side of the helicopter.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Gregg

    Way to go we need something like this, but seems to be more like cannon fauder. armor up to protect these guys.

    • Sev

      Kind of kills the improvement in range and puts more wear on the aircraft. Plus any armor would be minimal and ineffective against rpgs and SAMs. HOwever an active protection system like ones on israeli tanks could be effective.

      • GIJared

        Active protection systems are impractical. Helicopters almost always fly in formation, threats are unpredictable.

        • William_C1

          In a few years if not already DIRCM should be practical for such a helicopter.

  • David

    I’m not very knowledgeable about helicopters so someone please enlighten me on this: are the hardware requirements for SAR missions so different from the usual duties that an entire seperate variant meant for SAR is justifiable?

    • Bella

      YES !!! it’s not just SAR, it’s CSAR… COMBAT SEARCH AND RESCUE
      do your homework..
      US Air Force, Combat Search and Rescue, Pedro, PJ’s,,Jolly Green

      • ken

        They are the SPECOPS or SAR. They want to go in and get out as fast as possible for their patients, as the enemy might have a good visual of the vicinity of the crash or incident. I have seen collars, baskets, rafts, and jungle penetrators. Their attitude is not why we cant do it, but how can we do it.

    • Tribulationtime

      Take your weapon of choice. Walk 15 miles away of nearest Town, better into mountains. Shot your own foot, call to paramedics. How you gone have some time, you rethink about your dubts. Statistically medic assistance under the first hour after the wound had been produce rise the chance of survival radically.

    • CSARmedic

      @David. Typical CSAR missions are typically done in contested airspace and/or hostile territory such that an especially robust airframe carrying defensive systems and armament are required. These can be very hazardous missions normally requiring close in support and are performed by CSAR Pedro/Jolly HH-60 only because normal “slick” 60’s don’t have the performance, defensive capabilities, night and IR capabilities, etc which Jollys have.
      That being said, I am disappointed that more crew/litter/equipment space wasn’t configured in the new model. They could have very easily done away with the extra fuel cell (those “true” long range CSAR missions havent been done since Vietnam, to the best of my recently retired knowledge).

      • Bob

        You just made a great argument for giving the mission to Army UH60M units.

        • CSARmedic

          I’m sorry. I may be a bit slow but I don’t see how missions requiring highly modified, armed helicopter would be a good fit for “slick” UH-60M’s.
          I don’t see it.

        • WRM

          Actually, they just pointed out why the UH-60M is inadequate for the mission.

          How would giving the mission to crews not trained for it and an aircraft missing vital equipment make any sense?

      • David

        Uh, the Army’s UH-60M’s have better performance and just as much night and IR capabilities as the HH-60G. That’s why the Air Force is basing their new W model off of the Army’s M model. The only thing extra the W will have is .50 Cal or mini-guns versus the Army’s 240’s.

  • oblatt22

    The HH-60W is the most critical aircraft in the Air-Force because the perfumed princes refuse to fly out of SAR range even in places with no air defenses.

    Want to increase the operational range of our bombers - then strip this aircraft down and fill it full of fuel tanks is the answer.

    • Guest

      ummm what??

      • Spurlockda


  • ken

    A good SAR chopper has a wench!

    • JimmyD

      Why do you need a wench? Oh. Whoops.

    • gene

      they are not choppers and its called a rescue hoist and there is one mounted on the right side of the aircraft.

  • Peter

    I assume you meant “winch”? Although a wench or two on board might take the casulties minds off their injuries. :)

    • ken

      I am adamant about the wench.

      • William_C1

        I support funding of the combat wench.

        • hialpha


          • ken

            Combat Wench hahahahaha

      • Spurlockda

        I support specialized training for the combat wench.

  • JohnD

    Wow, 2 whole litters! The MEDEVAC the army uses holds 6 but I guess they won’t be CSARing any B-52s or C-130s, just F 35s and small planes! The Air Farce seems to be a day and a dollar short! Another AF boondoggle. How many AF helis are in Iraq supporting the Air Show?

    • William_C1

      Use your brain here. This is replacing an earlier Black Hawk variant used for CSAR. It’s not some new “AF boondoggle”.

      Army Dustoff helicopters (UH-60Q) are primarily for medical evacuation on or close to the front lines. Meaning a lot more room devoted to litters and medical supplies.

      Air Force CSAR helicopters by comparison need to devote a lot more space to defensive armament and avionics as they are often going behind the lines to rescue downed pilots, often they need space for equipment like a winch too.

      The Air Force used to have some large MH-53 variants used for CSAR and special operations. These were phased out a few years back by CV-22B which has excellent speed (certainly very useful in this role) but unfortunately lacks the same degree of armor the MH-53 was fitted with (also very useful for CSAR).

      • http://aol Jeff

        Yea look at the price tag. That is why it is. “Critical”. Got to keep the arms dealers happy. But take Magpul’s out of the troops hands. Take good bird like the A10. Do away with it. Hey as long as they are putting out contracs for the NEXT 10 years? The only aircraft that came in time and under budget was the SR.-71. 10yrs and only 2 litters wow.

        • William_C1

          This isn’t a MEDEVAC “Dustoff” chopper. It’s for rescuing downed aircrews. The litters are in case anybody is badly injured. Or sometimes they are used in other roles simply because they’re around.

          The Air Force had older variants of the Black Hawk used for the same job, this is just a newer version with better avionics, more powerful engines, etc.

          There really isn’t much of an excuse for anybody to screw this program up, proven airframe, proven systems, etc.

      • VTGunner

        The Army is phasing in the new HH-60M’s for the dustoff role. Very capable new birds

      • CSARmedic

        @ William_C1. Please read my post above.

        • CSARmedic

          Correction to above. JohnD please read my post above.

    • Sw614

      Do you have any clue as to what you are talking about?

  • Brian

    Air Force needs to leave the MEDEVACs to the professionals which is the Army. And putting advanced avionics and electronics without upgraded engines, transmission, flight controls, etc. only reduces the power margin. I would put my UH-60L against any HH or M model and blow them away. Especially in an environment like Afghanistan which Medevac rescues at higher altitudes are constant…

    • William_C1

      MEDEVAC and CSAR are different missions even though they have some commonalities. The HH-60W has the same uprated engines as on the UH-60M. Of course a “slick” UH-60M will have more power to work with as it isn’t carrying as much but what the HH-60W is carrying is often needed.

      • Aaron

        This aircraft is not meant for day-to-day MEDEVAC. It’s meant for search and rescue purposes; something the Army has no specialty in doing whatsoever. This baby is for the PJ’s. USAF “MEDEVAC” is done enmasse with C-130 and C-17 aircraft with what they call “stabilized” patients. The Army is still king when it comes to your typical MEDEVAC mission off the field of battle. The USAF specializes in the tricky stuff behind lines and so forth. Having served in both branches, I have the utmost respect for each AFSC/MOS who perform their respective functions.

        • Bella

          right on !

      • Luke

        This guy is a joke, Air Force Rescue HAS been doing the Army’s Dustoff role for the last 10 years weve been in this war! And doing a Dam good job at it bro, how do I know? Cuz I fly on one of these Air Force Helos! And there has been many of times we’ve went out becuase those guys couldn’t or wouldn’t, and guess what guys on the ground are just a thankful at the end of the day that a few ballsy Air Force guys can into a hot LZ with the PAVEHAWKS, with some pissed of crusty backenders and did what they had to do to save a brother in harms way, some of these old air craft have up too 11000 hrs on them and are worn out, yet we still fly them and do just as good of a job as the other guys your ranting about and we don’t have the luxury of newer air craft, it’s time for a new bird we’ve earned it! Our fellow brothers and sisters fighting the good fight have earned it, so I suggest before you go popping off about stuff you clearly have only one point of view on think about what you say, and who your talking about man, I’ve lost brothers and sisters and I won’t stand for them to be bad mouthed becuase you think this cause is a waste of money

        • Troy

          Just because Air Force Rescue has been flying a Dustoff role for the past ten years does not mean they are the crew of choice. This mission has been handed to them from the Army because it’s one of the easier missions to complete. It is an important mission but how often do they fly into a “Hot” LZ. Not to often. Most of the time, they have to wait until a landing area has been swept by mine sweepers before they will even land. The Army spends it’s time flying the insertions and exfils into hostil areas under fire. I’ve flown missions with AF Pavehawks flying with us and watch them break formation and return to base because of crew rest, leaving our Army Blackhawks to complete the mission. You my son are the joke!

          • steve

            And I have seen the same from Army Dustoff leaving the scene for crew rest puposes also, I have been in a HOT LZ a few times and seen dust off fly right on by declining the mish. So I would say the services are alike in a lot of ways.

          • BW3

            Lets think about this, the Army medevacs generally do not carry guns and stay well away from hot LZs. AF birds have guns and will use them to get into a hot LZ. I know which one I’d prefer in a pinch.

    • BW3

      Funniest thing I’ve heard all day. Even the gov’t disagrees with you.

    • b_2_the

      Brian, you’re clearly not in the know about AF PR/CSAR. MEDEVAC is a single (and generally passive) end event to the triade of CSAR coordination & execution.

    • UAVGeek

      You do realize that USAF CSAR has been involved of combat medevac of Army troops the last 10 years right? Ever heard the callsign “Pedro”? Those are USAF crewmember and PJs

    • WRM

      Truly spoken like someone with no experience in the helicopter world.

      Those Army crews you are talking about are professionals… a different mission in an aircraft set up for that different mission.

      If I need a CSAR rescue, then I want some CSAR professionals in a CSAR aircraft. It’s been proven to work better that way than by just trying to play a pickup game of it

  • ken


    • ken

      Why would someone put a negative on “Basket”? Not that it bothers me lol

  • d. kellogg

    Just odd that it’ll take all the way to 2023… get another Blackhawk variant in service.
    (By then the Sikorsky Raider should be produce-able.)

    I would’ve expected the USAF to jump faster onto the merits of a CSAR V-22 rather than keeping the 1970s-era Blackhawk design as a future platform.
    That doesn’t sound Air Force at all.

    • William_C1

      They do have the CV-22B which replaced the earlier MH-53 Pave Low series. These “special operations” aircraft have often been used for CSAR missions in the past.

      So I’d guess HH-60W for most missions and CV-22B for scenarios where its long range, speed, and higher cargo capacity can be of value.

      Obvious the speed and range of the CV-22B are great for CSAR but I doubt the aircraft will ever be as survivable as the most heavily armed and armored variants of the H-53 series.

      • david

        An Osprey for CSAR? Are you serious? A huge, very expensive bird that requires a massive LZ and is very fragile to go into small, hot LZ’s? That thing would get shot out of the air so fast doing a hoist mission above the tree’s it would make your head spin.

        $75,000 an hour to operate that boondoggle. lol

    • b_2_the

      CV-22 is a lot less capable than advertised. It was a corrupt congressional scam that we eventually had to own because we pumped so much money into the program (square-peg-round-hole theory). I’d be in the wrong spouting off a handful of its capabilities (errrrr… lack there of as advertised!) Looks super cool though doesn’t it!? (sarcasm)

      • Craigpv2d

        So, are you saying that we should have kept the Ch-46 then? The Osprey engines have been upgraded in 2013 by 17% and another 9% is coming in the Block 4 upgrades.

        • d. kellogg

          Why not then just go all out and use the T408/GE38 engines the Corps will be getting in the CH-53Ks…commonality and all that, plus a good chunk more horsepower (over 7000) than the T406s the Ospreys have now (just over 6000), plenty more hp on demand for those hot and high conditions.

          • craigpv2d

            The articles I read said the Block 4 upgrade would deliver 10,000hp.

          • d. kellogg

            In current design configuration the airframe couldn’t handle that level of power and torque, if you are implying 10,000 MORE hp that it already has now at, what, just over 12 thousand shp between 2 engines (Boeing’s own pdf says 2x 6150shp Block B MV-22).

            And as such, unless the plan is to incorporate engines off the A400M, who in the US manufactures, or plans to, 11,000hp turboshaft engines suitable for aircraft? I doubt the T406 has that margin for growth without major redesign.
            The T408 could most likely be developed past 10,000shp, as its predecessor, the T64, increased considerably throughout its lifespan iterations.
            But there again, that fuel consumption for that much power margin would cripple the Osprey’s range considerably.
            Who doesn’t like the notion of more raw power at your disposal? But at the expense of sacrificing how much range?

          • Craigpv2d

            The article I read, suggested improvements over current baseline. Whether these would be used in all versions is not stated. I just Googled V-22 engine upgrades.

    • gene

      csar/ special ops in an unarmed aircraft i dont think so.

    • Barryhh3f

      That would require another contract contest, they all ready did that twice.

  • lastdingo

    An appropriate timeline and budget for the development of an all-new helicopter.

  • richard payne

    I thought this was to be something that transported the wounded? Only two litters!

    • JeffR

      Combat Search and Rescue is a different mission than simply transporting the wounded. Its for use by the Pararescue Jumpers who must have the capabilities to fight their way behind enemy lines to get to downed pilots. Army choppers must have an Apache escort to fly into a hot LZ. If there is no escort, the Army medevac remains grounded.

      • Bella

        and when the army can’t get their Apache escorts, they call Pedro… US Air Force CSAR rescued Marcus Luttrell….

        Army Dustoffs sport the red cross emblem.. they are not armed… CSAR no emblem and armed.. you shoot at Pedro, he shoots back.. 50 cal !

        • UAVGeek

          Or miniguns, or if they can’t handle it they call in “Sandy”, 30mm goodness!

    • blight_

      It’s meant to rescue crew from aircraft that go down. For fighter jets, at most two people on the ground. For a bomber it gets more interesting.

  • joe

    good. get this thing into production. then they can buy into the Lakota program to replace the hueys used at the missile fields. since they wont be retiring the silos anytime soon. they ought to but they wont.

    • d. kellogg

      If the USAF sticks their grubby little mitts into the Army’s Lakota program, they’ll end up hosing that all up like they did with the JCA/C-27J program, the bird will be cancelled, and the Army will end up getting less of the more expensive Blackhawks.

    • blight_

      Is a replacement to the Huey really needed? Bell still makes civilian variants (Bell 212, Bell 412, Twin Huey).

      • d. kellogg

        The USMC doesn’t think so (replace the venerable Huey), they went ahead with development costs all the way thru to the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, far removed from their VietNam era ancestors.

        ….but what will the USMC do next, now that they’ve reached the end of that alphabet?

        • blight_

          I think continuing with the Huey+Cobra combo is an idea worth pursuing. However, the versatility of common parts for platforms stops there. I suppose if they really wanted to they could pursue LAV variants that functioned as IFV’s or tank destroyers, but instead opt for AAV and M1 Abrams.

  • john burns

    there has also been some mock rescues with the K-Pax. one WF rescue at a time, but for hot zones it would be just the thing for a quick in an out. no risk to 4 more AF brats, and it could drop supplies to the others still enforcing policy.

  • xXTomcatXx

    Anyone know how this compares with the Navy’s medevac 60? I know that one holds 2 or 3 litters and has some added armor. Not sure about the winch and ranges though. Also, is it just me, or does this seem like a lot of avionics upgrades? Is the Air Force getting a lot their engineering out of the way for other variants to receive upgrades in the future?

  • Craigpv2d

    Too bad they don’t put the new engines and blades on all the h-60 helos.

    • d. kellogg

      If they want brute speed, Piasecki developed the Vectored Thrust Ducted Propellor and trialled it, apparently mostly successfully, in a “SpeedHawk’ H-60 modification.

      But if you really wanna see how a great 4-blade-rotor helicopter is made, look at the British (Augusta Westland) Lynx family. Special rotor tips allowed it to break multiple helicopter speed records. Looks sexier than any Blackhawk, also.

    • BarryHH3F

      That’s what we said about the HH3-Fs. But the airframes do ware out and get lost (combat/accidents).

  • AdamD

    Wouldn’t it be more practical to use the MH-47 design for this work? Seems like it has more weapon stations, more internal space, and more powerful? I have no knowledge of either system in depth, just wondering why they wouldn’t use the larger aircraft.

    • Lurker

      It’s interesting you brought this up. An “HH-47” was the original winner of this CSAR competition almost ten years ago. Then a big mess ensued over the selection process, and around 2009ish GAO told the Air Force to scuttle the contract and reboot the contest and yadda yadda yadda here we are.

      I can’t say I know enough about CSAR operations to comment on chopper is better.

    • MarkR

      The reason the MH-47 varient was originally not in the running for CSAR-X is because it failed to meet one of the Key Performance Parameters (KPP) threshold values. GENERALLY, the failure to meet ALL KPP threshold values eliminates that design from consideration. In this particular case, the KPP involved mission ready time (unsure of the actual heading of the KPP). In short, it was determined that the time for the MH-47 to be mission ready was excessive. CSAR missions are time critical, so this is why it was a KPP. That said, the MH-47 platform does have some considerable advantages. It’s greatest is probably that among the EXISTING helicopters of the time, it was one of the few proven to have the power be able to operate successfully in high altitude environments (like Afganistan).

      The mess that Lurker is referring to came about because of a last moment modification to the KPP that had prevented the MH-47 from being considered. It was done in a way that hid the change from scrutiny and effectively bypassed the required approval by the military’s service commanders. This happened after Air Force personnel involved in the CSAR-X acquisition process met with top Boeing leaders. A rather unusual event considering that they were (at that time) not even in the running. Because of this unapproved modification, Boeing was able to compete and was awarded the CSAR-X contract. As you can guess, after the deception came to light competitors rightfully filed protests and the Boeing contract was eventually terminated.

  • MarkR

    It’s about time CSAR-X is making headway. Several years were wasted when in 2003 the CSAR mission went from ACC to AFSOC. It’s not that the change to AFSOC itself was neccesarily flawed, but the fact that certain AFSOC personnel decided to quietly change a KPP (Key Performance Parameter) and bypassed the REQUIRED Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) approval process. Why was this done? Because they already knew that this was a critical performance issue change that wouldn’t approved. This last minute change allowed Boeing to compete with its CH-47 Chinook varient as their entry, and lo and behold, Boeing was awarded the contract in 2006.

    Fast forward to 2009 when the Boeing contract was T4C (Terminated for Convenience) and the whole selection process had to be restarted. BTW, no one was found to be liable for this fiasco, instead the blame was place on the process. My speculation, and it is just my personal conjecture, is that a person or persons high up in the chain of command was/ were involved, and we all know that when that happens either the sacrificial Airman, lowly contractor, or junior officer is served up to the slaughter, or lacking a convenient scape goat, the whole issue is swept under the carpet.

  • Doc Mike

    As a former AF IDMT (Independent Duty Medical Technician) with flight time in a UH-60. I am required to get my patients the best possible care within that golden hour. Many of the severely wounded in Afghanistan were transported by Pararescue personnel. The Dustoff helo’s are designed for 6 litters but not much care on the flight to the field hospital vs PJ’s who are the worlds best trauma specialist are there to keep our troops alive (no matter their rank) Give the PJ’s & their aircrews the BEST tool for the job !

    • @varnal1

      I remember the pedestal holding 4 litters two on each side - they stretched that to six? _

  • @varnal1

    I find it interesting that an existing airframe still costs so much - you would assume that the internals obviously would cost but the history of the airframe through maintenance various ‘checks’ would reveal flaws in the airframe would be corrected and improved in future models at nominal costs. Engines through operational use would identify problem areas and maintenance concerns. I would expect costs in a new airframe and untried engines.

  • Bill Leeds

    Just like the “New” tanker……way late and obsolete by the time it gets to the field!
    How sad.
    Fed Ex and UPS buy new air frames and put them on line within a year;why can’t the AF do that?
    When we replace our useless Congress,lets clean house @ the Pentagon,too.

  • Doug Wilson

    The interior of the black hawk any model is too small, two litters is bullcrap, more room is needed to carry more patients, gunners, Pjs or medics IV bags suction devices, oxygen bottles and gear, quit buying a small piece of crap, something larger, faster and with more power to hover at altitude, come on get your head out.

  • CSARmedic

    @Doug Wilson. Methinks your head may not be in the proper place as well. The typical “slick” UH-60 Blackhawk (even the Medevac ones) have plenty of room for many more than two litters and two crewman in the back. The aircraft of which this thread originates is not a slick UH-60 but a HH-60 Pavehawk (or whatever new “cool” name they come up with). This not a slick ’60 but a highly modified variant used for CSAR and other SPECOPs missions. The reason for only two litters (and 3 PJ’s) in the back is because of the space needed for the (left) Gunner/winch operator and (right) Flight Engineer/gunner, the large amount of ammo for the door guns, stokes litters, and (unnecessary) internal fuel cell. These items take up a large amount of cargo space which severely limits patient area.

  • fightingirish

    @Sikorsky @usafpressdesk My name proposal for the HH-60W #CombatRescueHelicopter is ‘HH-60W Warrior Hawk’. #WarriorHawk #CSAR #HAI_EXPO15