The 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 Military.com.
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.